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Banner year for the Religion of Peace™.

BEIRUT (AP) — As Muslims around the world celebrate the end of Ramadan, many are struggling to comprehend a wave of attacks that killed 350 people across several continents during the holy month and made urgent the question of what drives the militants to ever more spectacular violence against civilians.

The diverse, high-profile targets — including one that struck the heart of Islam in the month's final days — underline the warnings of many experts: the Islamic State group, especially when on the defensive at home, will metastasize far beyond its theater of operations.

The extremist group has always sought attention and recruits through brazen terrorism. The projection of daring, operational competence and utter disregard for the norms of its enemies has proven a winning strategy among its disenfranchised and angry followers around the Muslim world.

Although the month is a holy time meant for introspection, peace and piety, it has been transformed in the hands of the extremists who have thrived during the recent decades of turbulence around the region, particularly in war zones like Iraq, Afghanistan and more recently in Syria.