Terrorism in Africa: a growing threat especially in the Sahel

    11 May 2022 - 10:34

    International Writing, May 11 (EFE).- The growing terrorist threat in Africa is one of the aspects addressed by the ministerial meeting held on Wednesday by the Global Coalition against the Islamic State (IS) group in the Moroccan city of Marrakech.

    The representatives of the 84 countries that make up the coalition will hold three sessions focused on "Africa", "Iraq/Syria" and "Afghanistan", according to the program of the meeting, which takes place in a context of great increase in jihadist terrorism in the Sahel and West Africa.

    The United States has expressed its concern and recalled that terrorist attacks in the area of ​​the three Sahel borders (Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso) increased by 43% between 2018 and 2021, while the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Albares recalled that the Sahel has been located at the "epicenter of jihadist terrorism".

    This is the situation on the continent:

    IN THE SAHEL, TWO LARGE ACTIVE AND RIVALS GROUPS

    Terrorists affiliated with Al Qaeda, such as the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (JNIM), and with IS, such as the Islamic State of the Greater Sahara (EIGS), are multiplying their attacks and continuing their expansion and rivalry for the Sahel, although their actions they preferentially settle in Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso.

    The arrival of terrorist cells in the region brought with it an increase in jihadist organizations in an area where groups such as the Nigerian Boko Haram or other Al-Qaeda affiliates already operated.

    Boko Haram, which in 2015 swore allegiance to IS, suffered a split in 2016 for religious and strategic reasons. Thus was born another of the most aggressive terrorist factions in the area, the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), which faces militias related to Al-Qaeda, such as the Support Front for Islam and Muslims.

    Al Qaeda and IS affiliated terrorists compete for the allegiance of local groups and carry out indiscriminate attacks against civilians and established governments.

    The succession of deaths from jihadist attacks reflects the instability in the area. In 2021 alone, seven major attacks were recorded with more than 40 deaths each.

    The 2022 Global Terrorism Index report notes that deaths from terrorism have increased by more than a thousand percent between 2007 and 2021 in the Sahel. Both groups take advantage of internal conflicts and intercommunity violence to strengthen their position, obtain resources, reaffirm their influence and expand their field of action.

    NIGERIA AND BOKO HARAM

    Since splitting from Boko Haram in 2016, the Islamic State (IS) in West Africa Province (ISWAP) has become the main terrorist group in Nigeria.

    In the rural areas of the northeast of the country, where, according to World Bank data, more than 70% of the population remains below the poverty line - almost twice the national average - terrorists have managed to put many unemployed young people into to swell their ranks of fighters.

    This fact has improved its military capacity, turning it into a group capable of organizing powerful attacks against civilians or the Army, warned the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank.

    Its violence, as well as that of the Boko Haram jihadist group, have forced some 2.9 million people to flee their homes.

    ISIS's drive contrasts with the State's low capacity to control this advance, which is felt even in neighboring countries, such as Cameroon, Chad or Niger, where ISWAP also attacks.

    Something similar is happening in Burkina Faso, where terrorist groups from other countries in the Sahel region, such as Mali and Niger, have found since 2015 a refuge to become strong and continue spreading their tentacles throughout the region.

    In Burkina Faso, terrorist attacks are often attributed, among other organizations, to the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (EIGS), which also attacks Mali and Niger.

    The presence of these armed groups has also resulted in a massive movement of the population in Burkina Faso, with more than 1.85 million people displaced, according to the Burkina Faso government.

    IN THE EAST OF THE CONTINENT

    In the east of the continent, IS has claimed responsibility for some attacks in Mozambique by the group Al Sunnah wa Jama'ah ("Adherents of the Prophetic Tradition"), known by the local population as Al Shabab ("Youth", in English). Arabic), which is not related to the eponymous jihadist organization in Somalia.

    This group has been terrorizing the northern province of Cabo Delgado since October 2017, although it has not yet been proven that Mozambicans receive direct orders from IS.

    Al Shabab attacks have decreased since Rwanda and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) sent in military forces in July last year to tackle jihadism.

    The links of IS with the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a group of Ugandan origin that in 2021 killed around 1,260 people in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), according to UN data, are also unclear.

    The objectives of this militia are diffuse beyond a possible link with the Islamic State, which sometimes takes responsibility for its attacks.

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    Evarist Chahali

    Evarist Chahali

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