As readers are doubtless aware, an unknown militant is currently holding a number of hostages at a Lindt Chocolat Cafe in downtown Sydney, and forcing them to display a jihadist flag in the store's window. There is much online controversy about exactly which faction's flag it is. The Sydney Morning Herald identifies it as the banner of Hizb ut-Tahrir, and contrasts it with those flown by ISIS and the Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front. The report says Somalia's Shabab is also now flying the ISIS flag, which may mark another affiliate for the "Islamic State"—which would make four by our count. We have noted that protesters are on trial in Lebanon for having burned the ISIS flag, ostensibly because it includes the Arabic text of the Shahada or declaration of Muslim faith. These are all variations on the "Tawhid flag" that has been adopted by Islamists throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Given the franchise model of the jihadist networks, it really doesn't make that much difference which faction the Sydney militant is associated with, or if he is just a freelancer.
In any case, it is probably relevant that an Australian spy-plane was instrumental in the discovery of a "hidden network of caves and bunkers" occupied by ISIS fighters outside Kirkuk in northern Iraq last month, leading to its destruction in air-raids carried out jointly with the US. (Daily Mail, Nov. 28)
A BBC study found that last month over 5,000 were killed worldwide in jihadist violence, with the most affected countries Iraq, Nigeria and Afghanistan. (BBC News, Dec. 11)