Digital Dunes and Shrublands: A Comparative Introduction to the Sahelian Jihadi Propaganda Ecosystem

The Sahel comprises some of the world’s poorest countries. Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger are undergoing several crises that together represent a major geopolitical dilemma on the African continent. In this context, jihadi groups, including the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (commonly referred to by its Arabic acronym JNIM), and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), represent regional affiliates of the global terrorist organisations Al-Qaeda and Islamic State. Radical groups driving insurgencies that are growing and expanding across the region pose a key strategic threat. Through asymmetric warfare and their media-savvy capabilities, jihadis are outmatching the weak states facing them on the battlefield and in strategic communications. Militants often transform defeats into propaganda victories, while authorities fail to deliver an adequate counternarrative and do not fully exploit their tactical gains.

The modern guerrillas that make up these jihadi groups in the age of the Internet leverage technology to agitate and indoctrinate as part of their religio-politico-military struggle. Across a vast territory, half the size of Europe, with a diverse typography of dunes, shrublands, mountains, and thick forests, jihadis employ traditional guerrilla tactics combined with modern weapons including remote-controlled rocket launchers and improvised explosive devices. Drone footage and GoPro cameras are utilised to magnify landscapes and military operations, amplifying their online propaganda and mobilisation.

Read more at the Global Network on Extremism & Technology

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