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‘The Arc of Jihad’: The Ecosystem of Militancy in East, Central and Southern Africa

By 2018, sub-Saharan Africa surpassed North Africa and the Middle East in terms of the number of casualties as a result of terrorist attacks perpetrated by militant Islamists.

According to the Global Terrorism Database, terrorism has steadily been on the rise in sub-Saharan Africa since 2004. The years that followed saw the establishment of two notable al-Qaeda affiliates: the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), the forerunner of al-Shabaab, in Somalia in 2006 and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in 2007, based primarily between the borders of southern Algeria and northern Mali. Within a short period of time, the ICU and its predecessors had posed enough of a threat to draw the United States, Ethiopia and the region at large into a military intervention in Somalia.

By 2018, sub-Saharan Africa surpassed North Africa and the Middle East in terms of the number of casualties as a result of terrorist attacks perpetrated by militant Islamists. This shift coincided with the collapse of Islamic State’s physical caliphate in Iraq and Syria, which led the group to begin making overtures for regional wilayats in Africa. In doing so, Islamic State (IS) had to contend with devoted al-Qaeda affiliates, which led to deadly clashes, but also was able to capitalise on emerging factions, aspiring IS insurgents and extremist networks.

Between 2015 and 2019, IS acquired four affiliates in sub-Saharan Africa and the Sahel: in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso the Islamic State in Greater Sahara; in Nigeria the Islamic State West African Province; in Somalia the Islamic State in Somalia (ISS); and in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Mozambique the Islamic State Central African Province (ISCAP). As a result, since 2015 the number of incidents involving battles with security forces, explosions and remote violence against civilians has been on a steady increase, with 2020 marking the deadliest year across the Sahel, West, Central and East Africa.

Read more at ICSR

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