The Congo branch of the Islamic State in Central Africa Province (ISCAP) steps up attacks in did to decome its own province

    The Congo branch of the Islamic State in Central Africa Province (ISCAP) is increasingly following the footsteps of the most prolific Islamic State (IS) affiliate, Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP). Also commonly referred to as “Boko Haram,” ISWAP has carried out more attacks than any other IS province in the first quarter of this year. In fact, ISWAP has carried out almost as many claimed attacks (162) as IS in Syria and Iraq combined (197) in that period  (Twitter/@Jihad_Analytics, April 8).

    ISCAP Congo branch’s 37 attacks in the first quarter of 2021 trails only the above-mentioned provinces and Afghanistan-based IS in Khorasan Province (45 attacks), which means the Congolese militants are among the most active for IS. The Congolese militants are on the upswing with regards to attacks claimed, deaths inflicted on enemies, and expansion of the operational area. In contrast, IS fighters in Syria and Iraq are beleaguered by regional powers and proxy militias, despite still carrying out occasional deadly attacks on civilians or militiamen who oppose them (rudaw.net, April 11). Meanwhile, IS in Khorasan Province is threatened by the Taliban (Terrorism Monitor, December 16, 2021).

    Besides IS’s Congo branch, only ISWAP is still ascendant among IS’s provinces. One of the most recent threats from ISCAP’s Congo branch involved planned bombings in Beni, about which the mayor warned the city’s residents (politico.cd, April 11). Another attack attributed to the IS Congo branch involved the April 7 grenade attack at Katinda military camp in Goma (radiookapi.net, April 8). Other attacks have targeted Christians and villages close to the Uganda border (Twitter/@TracTerrorism, April 11). At the same time, photographs from the IS Congo branch’s attack claims confirm the group’s expansion as far as the Ituri river in northeastern Congo (Twitter/@ThinkTAC2022, April 7).

    Not only is IS’s Congo branch ascendant militarily, but its propaganda is also fully aligned with IS’s “core”. For example, the militants released a video pledging loyalty to the new IS caliph as well as a video celebrating the breaking of the fast during Ramadan (Twitter/@erfanyousafzai, April 2). Both of these video and photographic materials were part of a broader series involving all IS provinces globally.

    One of the possible trajectories for IS’s Congo branch is that it will become its own “IS in Congo Province,” with the current IS Mozambique branch becoming its own “IS in Mozambique Province.” Currently, both are unified under IS’s organization structure as ISCAP. Once IS’s new caliph was anointed in March, ISWAP and Islamic State in Greater Sahara (ISGS) likewise became separated, with the former remaining ISWAP and the latter becoming IS’s “Sahel Province” (aljazeera.com, March 29). Thus, the same might happen for their Congo and Mozambique-based counterparts.

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    Evarist Chahali

    Evarist Chahali

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