Africa File

A biweekly analysis and assessment of the Salafi-jihadi movement in Africa and related security and political dynamics.   Each edition begins "At a Glance." Country-specific updates follow.{{authorBox.message}}

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Africa File: Islamic State affiliates are on the march in West Africa

[Notice: The Critical Threats Project frequently cites sources from foreign domains. All such links are identified with an asterisk (*) for the reader's awareness.]

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Two Islamic State affiliates are advancing in West Africa. The group’s Sahel branch has resumed frequent attacks in Niger and Burkina Faso. In Nigeria, the Islamic State’s largest African affiliate is notching military victories near a key regional capital and expanding its operations along the Niger-Nigeria border. Meanwhile, al Shabaab—al Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia—stepped up attacks on police and prison targets in the aftermath of political turmoil in the Somali capital.

In this Africa File:

  • Sahel. Al Qaeda–linked militants are likely responsible for kidnapping a French journalist in Mali. An Islamic State affiliate regained the capability to conduct frequent attacks in Niger and Burkina Faso.
  • Lake Chad. An Islamic State affiliate seeks to control access to a regional capital in northeastern Nigeria and is embedding itself in communities along the Niger-Nigeria border.
  • Somalia. Al Shabaab is capitalizing on political instability in Somalia to escalate attacks on police stations. The group may be preparing to raid a prison in Mogadishu.
  • Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s June elections are a flashpoint for insecurity that threatens the country’s cohesion.

Latest publications:

  • Al Qaeda. Katherine Zimmerman argues in AEIdeas that Osama bin Laden’s legacy is “more powerful than ever” 10 years after his death. She traces al Qaeda’s trajectory over the past decade in a new article for Current Trends in Islamic Ideology, arguing that al Qaeda has “expanded its popular base in the conflicts that followed the Arab Spring,” including in Africa, while remaining focused on global jihad. Read the pieces here and here.
  • Africa. Emily Estelle writes in Foreign Policy that Salafi-jihadi insurgencies in African countries get short shrift in Western policy circles. She argues that, as Salafi-jihadi groups notch success after success in Africa, political and policy challenges are preventing policymakers from seeing the threat clearly. But the spread of Salafi-jihadi insurgencies undercuts other US policy goals in Africa and, most importantly, robs millions of Africans of future prosperity and peace. Read the piece here.
  • Chad. Rahma Bayrakdar assessed the implications of Chad’s domestic instability for the Salafi-jihadi movement in West Africa. Read the warning update here.

Read Further On:

West Africa

East Africa

Figure 1. The Salafi-Jihadi Movement in Africa: May 2021

View full image here.

Source: Authors.

Overview: The Salafi-jihadi threat in Africa

Updated May 12, 2021

The Salafi-jihadi movement, which includes al Qaeda and the Islamic State, is active across northern, eastern, and western Africa and is expanding and deepening its presence on the continent. This movement, like any insurgency, draws strength from access to vulnerable and aggrieved populations. Converging trends, including failing states and regional instability, are creating favorable conditions for the Salafi-jihadi movement’s expansion. Meanwhile, counterterrorism efforts rely on the continued efforts of international coalitions, support for which is eroding, and on states and local authorities that have demonstrated an inability to govern effectively.

West Africa. The Salafi-jihadi movement has spread rapidly in West Africa by exploiting ethnic grievances and state weaknesses that include human rights abuses, corruption, and ineffectiveness. An al Qaeda affiliate co-opted the 2012 Tuareg rebellion in Mali and has continued to expand southward through the Sahel region into central Mali and the peripheries of Burkina Faso. An Islamic State–linked group is active in the same area, particularly western Niger and parts of Burkina Faso.

Sahel groups have not yet plotted attacks outside West Africa but have sought to drive Western security and economic presence out of the region while building lucrative smuggling and kidnapping-for-ransom enterprises. An al Qaeda–linked group in Mali is infiltrating governance structures, advancing an overarching Salafi-jihadi objective, and expanding into Gulf of Guinea countries. West Africa has become an area of focus for transnational Salafi-jihadi organizations, with rival jihadists now fighting for dominance in the Sahel.

The Islamic State’s largest African affiliate is based in northwest Nigeria—Africa’s most populous country—and conducts frequent attacks into neighboring Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. Boko Haram and an al Qaeda–linked splinter group are also active in this region.

New instability in Chad, whose security forces are engaged in counterterrorism efforts in Mali and the Lake Chad basin, may lift pressure from Salafi-jihadi groups in both theaters.

East Africa. Al Shabaab, an al Qaeda affiliate and the dominant Salafi-jihadi group in East Africa, is vocal about its intent to attack US interests and has begun to plot international terror attacks. The group enjoys de facto control over broad swathes of southern Somalia and can project power in the Somali federal capital Mogadishu and regional capitals, where it regularly attacks senior officials. It seeks to delegitimize and replace the weak Somali Federal Government—a task made easier by endemic political dysfunction, corruption, and an ongoing constitutional crisis. Al Shabaab’s governance ambitions extend to ethnic Somali populations in Kenya and Ethiopia, and the group conducts regular attacks in eastern Kenya.

Al Shabaab is positioned to benefit from eroding security conditions in East Africa. Ethiopia’s destabilization is already having regional effects, including weakening counter–al Shabaab efforts in Somalia. The drawing down of the US and African Union counterterrorism missions in Somalia will also reduce pressure on al Shabaab.

The Islamic State has also penetrated the region. Islamic State branches are now active in northern Somalia, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, and northern Mozambique, bordering Tanzania. The insurgency caused French company Total to shutter a multibillion-dollar natural gas project in northern Mozambique that was the continent’s largest private investment. The Islamic State foothold in Mozambique also marks the Salafi-jihadi movement’s expansion into southern Africa.

North Africa. Salafi-jihadi groups in North Africa are at a low point, but the fragility and grievances that led to their rise remain. The Arab Spring uprisings and subsequent security vacuums allowed Salafi-jihadi groups to organize and forge ties with desperate and coerced populations. The Islamic State’s rise brought a peak in Salafi-jihadi activity in North Africa, particularly from its branches in Libya and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Counterterrorism pressure has weakened Salafi-jihadi groups across North Africa in the past five years.

The insurgencies in Libya and the Sinai are active but contained, and terrorist attacks across the region have decreased. Libya’s political and security crisis will continue to create opportunities for Salafi-jihadi groups, and severe instability or collapse in any North African state would likely bring the Salafi-jihadi threat back to the surface.

West Africa

Sahel

An al Qaeda–linked group kidnapped a French journalist in Mali. An unidentified group kidnapped French journalist Olivier Dubois on April 8 Gao region in northeastern Mali. A video surfaced on May 4 in which Dubois claims he was kidnapped by Jama’at Nusrat al Islam wa al Muslimeen (JNIM). JNIM has not released official media on the kidnapping but is a likely suspect; the group is active in Gao, and Dubois had reportedly gone to *interview a JNIM official at the time of his abduction.

JNIM has named France as its main opponent in Mali, and kidnapping French nationals serves the group’s overarching objective of removing French presence from the Sahel. The kidnappings of foreigners also serve more immediate needs for the group, including attracting ransom payments and serving as bargaining chips. JNIM released a French national and two other Europeans as part of a prisoner exchange with the Malian government in October 2020.

The Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) resumed and is sustaining regular attacks against security forces and civilians in Burkina Faso and Niger. ISGS claimed to kill 36 Nigerian security forces in two separate attacks on May 1 and May 4 in western Niger’s Tahou and Tillaberi regions.[i] ISGS is present in western Niger and has been active in Tillaberi and in the Niger–Mali–Burkina Faso border region for several years. The group likely conducted an attack killing 30 civilians in eastern Burkina Faso’s Kodyel village near the Nigerian border, an area ISGS has targeted in the past. ISGS has conducted several attacks in eastern Burkina Faso and western Niger since early April. (See Figure 2.)

The recent uptick in ISGS’s operational tempo indicates the group has regained its attack capability. ISGS began clashing with JNIM in late 2019 and fighting has continued since, with JNIM defeating ISGS in their latest clash in Gao region in early April. JNIM expelled ISGS from Malian terrain near the borders with Burkina Faso and Niger in September 2020. French-led Operation Barkhane *focused its operations on ISGS in the tri-border region throughout 2020, further weakening the group before shifting its focus toward JNIM in October 2020.

ISGS appears to be recovering in areas where JNIM is absent or minimally active. ISGS has conducted regular attacks in Burkina Faso and Niger since March. If ISGS recruits more fighters and gains access to weapons and resources from its activities Burkina Faso and Niger, the group may regain its strength and intensify clashes with JNIM in the tri-border region.

Figure 2. ISGS attacks in Burkina Faso and Niger: April 1–May 10

Source: Authors.

Lake Chad

The Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWA) is expanding in northeastern Nigeria and may seek to control access to Borno state’s capital. ISWA militants have been attacking regularly in the area between the Nigeria-Niger border and the Borno regional capital Maiduguri since December 2020. ISWA attacked Ajiri in Borno state, 15 miles south of Maiduguri, on May 6, and Mainok, 30 miles west of Maiduguri, on April 25. These attacks may indicate the group’s plans to surround and isolate Maiduguri by *seizing inbound roads and targeting electricity installations that serve the city. ISWA’s use of military vehicles paired with its increasing use of explosive capabilities, such as vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, indicates that the group will continue to inflict high casualties on Nigerian security forces even at fortified bases. (See Figure 3.)

ISWA is conducting attacks and embedding itself in communities beyond Borno state near Niger’s southern border. The group attacked Yobe State’s Geidam town on April 25 and claimed to have captured the town days later. ISWA militants allegedly *distributed “Ramadan gifts” equivalent to $49 to villagers in the town, likely in an effort to establish authority and win support. The Islamic State published photos of ISWA militants collecting and distributing zakat (religious tax) and holding outdoor religious events in Yobe state. Providing for communities in Geidam will allow ISWA to increase its freedom of movement near southern Niger’s Diffa region, where the group regularly attacks security forces.[ii]

ISWA will likely benefit from lucrative illicit economic activity along the Niger-Nigeria borderNortheastern Nigeria’s border region is a key crossing point for trafficking and smuggling, including moving migrants toward North Africa and Europe. Geidam is located on the Nguru-Gashua-Damasak Road, which leads into Niger. A greater presence along the Niger-Nigeria border may allow an ISWA criminal nexus to exploit these routes for transit and profit-making. ISWA may also expand ties with local criminal groups to facilitate its expansion into new areas. (See Figure 3.)

Figure 3. April–May 2021 ISWA Activity in Nigeria: Key Locations

Source: Authors.

ISWA’s shura council appointed a new leader in mid-January after losing territory in northeastern Nigeria. Members *mutinied against former commander Abba-Gana, who had led the group since February 2019. ISWA’s shura council *claimed Abba-Gana was biased in his selection of commanders and stated that ISWA had lost territory to the Nigerian army under his leadership. The group’s *new leader, Abu Dawud, *led an unprecedented attack on a Chadian military position in March 2020. ISWA has gained control of parts of Borno state and regained lost territory in northeastern Nigeria since Abu Dawud’s appointment in mid-January.

Boko Haram’s leader installed a new military commander following leadership disputes. Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau *executed the group’s war commander, Abu Fatima, for alleged betrayal, along with at least two other senior commanders. Shekau appointed a new commander, Abu Muhammad, on April 29. Shekau is notoriously erratic and has previously killed Boko Haram members and commanders who question his approach. Abu Muhammad may increase the frequency or brutality of attacks to prove his commitment to Shekau.

Political instability in Chad continues as civilians protest the transitional government. Chadian security forces are responding violently to anti-junta protests in Chad’s capital, N’Djamena, where demonstrations have been occurring since a military council took power following the death of Chad’s president on April 20. Chad’s domestic crisis has implications for regional security missions, where Chadian troops comprise the most effective Sahelian forces. Read more about how the crisis in Chad threatens West Africa counterterrorism efforts here.

East Africa

Somalia

Al Shabaab is capitalizing on political instability in Somalia to escalate attacks on police stations. Al Shabaab bombed two police stations in and around Mogadishu on *May 5 and *9 and assassinated a policeman in the city on April 29.[iii] The group also attacked police officers at a military post in Galgadud region in central Somalia on May 1.[iv]

The uptick in attacks on police accompanies a dangerous period of fragmentation for Somalia’s security forces. Internecine clashes broke out in Mogadishu in late April amid a botched attempt by Somalia’s president to extend his term of office by two years.

Al Shabaab may also be preparing for a prison break. A senior al Shabaab leader *called for more prison raids in March following a successful attack on a prison in Boosaaso in Puntland state in northern Somalia. The group’s spokesman *reiterated its intent to free prisoners on May 12. The group may be seizing an opportunity to free imprisoned members following the unrest in Mogadishu. Al Shabaab militants bombed the headquarters of a force responsible for overseeing prison security in Mogadishu on April 28 and *killed the deputy chief of staff of the country’s correctional forces on May 6.

Ethiopia

Ethiopia’s June 5 elections are a flashpoint for insecurity that threatens the country’s cohesion. The federal government added the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) to a terror list on May 1. The move comes amid a widening crackdown on ethnic Tigrayans throughout Ethiopia. Ethiopian federal forces—alongside Eritrean troops and Amhara regional state forces—have been grappling with TPLF forces for control of Tigray region since November 2020.

Current tensions in Ethiopia are not limited to Tigray region or Tigray populations, however. Political parties in the Oromo and Somali regional states recently signaled they will not participate in the June elections. The government’s terrorism designation also targeted a splinter group of an Oromo resistance movement. The Tigray conflict parallels, and has sometimes stoked, tensions between other Ethiopian regional states and the federal government, as well as tensions among regional states.

Fighting may be escalating in Tigray region, placing even greater strain on the federal government in the lead-up to elections. Recent casualty reports appear higher than in prior months, though these figures are difficult to corroborate.


[i] SITE Intelligence Group, “ISWAP Claims 36 Deaths in Attacks on Enemy Troops in Niger's Tahoua and Tillabéri Regions,” May 8, 2021, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com.

[ii] SITE Intelligence Group, “ISWAP Photographs Raids in Kamuya and Dikwa, Claims 16 Nigerien Soldiers and Police Killed in Diffa,” April 20, 2021, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com.

[iii] SITE Intelligence Group, “In Sharp Rise in Military Activity, Shabaab Claims 40 Attacks in 5-Day Period in Somalia,” May 5, 2021, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com.

[iv] SITE Intelligence Group, “In Sharp Rise in Military Activity, Shabaab Claims 40 Attacks in 5-Day Period in Somalia,” May 5, 2021, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com.

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Africa File: Political crises rock Chad and Somalia; Islamic State insurgency robs Mozambique of billions 

[Notice: The Critical Threats Project frequently cites sources from foreign domains. All such links are identified with an asterisk (*) for the reader's awareness.]

To receive the Africa File via email, please subscribe here.

Political crises in Chad and Somalia risk expanding into larger conflicts while lifting pressure from Salafi-jihadi groups in several African regions. Longtime Chadian President Idris Deby was killed amid fighting with rebel groups. The Chadian military has moved to take control of the country, including cracking down on protests against military rule. Chad is a base for Western counterterrorism forces and a regional troop contributor whose domestic instability will disrupt operations against Salafi-jihad groups in Mali and the Lake Chad Basin.

Unrest has also seized Somalia’s capital following the president’s attempt to extend his term by two years. The country’s security forces are fragmenting, and rival factions have staked out positions in the capital. Former allies pressured the president to abandon the term extension on April 27, possibly averting an immediate conflict, but Somalia’s political crisis will not be easily resolved. Meanwhile, al Shabaab—al Qaeda’s East Africa affiliate—has already exploited the crisis to bolster its positions in the Somali countryside.

Salafi-jihadi insurgencies are already exacting a steep cost in Africa in both lives and dollars. The French company Total suspended a multibillion-dollar investment in Mozambique this week due to an Islamic State–linked insurgency in the country’s north. The loss of the project—the largest source of private investment in Africa—is a devastating blow to Mozambique’s pursuit of economic growth. As CTP Research Manager Emily Estelle recently argued in Foreign Policy, “Africa’s rise to prosperity could be the defining story of the coming decades. But that won’t happen if hundreds of thousands lives under Salafi-jihadi dominance, with huge swathes of terrain becoming permanent terrorist havens, and millions displaced by violence.”

In this Africa File:

  • Lake Chad. Domestic instability is disrupting Chadian involvement in regional counterterrorism efforts. The Islamic State’s West Africa Province is escalating sophisticated attacks on security forces in Nigeria.
  • Sahel. An Al Qaeda–linked group is intensifying its efforts to control populations in central Mali by clashing with rival armed groups.
  • Somalia. Somalia’s president backed away from an attempted power grab as rival factions grapple for control of Mogadishu, leaving al Shabaab to fill security vacuums outside the capital.
  • Mozambique. A multibillion-dollar natural gas project was suspended in northern Mozambique following escalating attacks by an Islamic State–linked group.
  • Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s June elections are a flashpoint for insecurity that threatens the country’s cohesion.
  • Tunisia. The murderer of a French policewoman may have been in contact with a Tunisia-based Salafi-jihadi group.

Latest publications:

  • Africa. Emily Estelle writes in Foreign Policy that Salafi-jihadi insurgencies in African countries get short shrift in Western policy circles. She argues that, as Salafi-jihadi groups notch success after success in Africa, political and policy challenges are preventing policymakers from seeing the threat clearly. But the spread of Salafi-jihadi insurgencies undercuts other US policy goals in Africa and, most importantly, robs millions of Africans of future prosperity and peace. Read the piece here.
  • Chad. Rahma Bayrakdar assessed the implications of Chad’s domestic instability for the Salafi-jihadi movement in West Africa. Read the warning update here.

Read Further On:

West Africa

East Africa

North Africa

Figure 1. The Salafi-Jihadi Movement in Africa: April 2021

View full image.

Source: Emily Estelle.


Overview: The Salafi-jihadi threat in Africa

Updated April 27, 2021

The Salafi-jihadi movement, which includes al Qaeda and the Islamic State, is active across northern, eastern, and western Africa and is expanding and deepening its presence on the continent. This movement, like any insurgency, draws strength from access to vulnerable and aggrieved populations. Converging trends, including failing states and regional instability, are creating favorable conditions for the Salafi-jihadi movement’s expansion. Meanwhile, counterterrorism efforts rely on the continued efforts of international coalitions, support for which is eroding, and on states and local authorities that have demonstrated an inability to govern effectively.

West Africa. The Salafi-jihadi movement has spread rapidly in West Africa by exploiting ethnic grievances and state weaknesses that include human rights abuses, corruption, and ineffectiveness. An al Qaeda affiliate co-opted the 2012 Tuareg rebellion in Mali and has continued to expand southward through the Sahel region into central Mali and the peripheries of Burkina Faso. An Islamic State–linked group is active in the same area, particularly western Niger. Sahel groups have not yet plotted attacks outside West Africa but have sought to drive Western security and economic presence out of the region while building lucrative smuggling and kidnapping-for-ransom enterprises. An al Qaeda–linked group in Mali is infiltrating governance structures, advancing an overarching Salafi-jihadi objective, and expanding into Gulf of Guinea countries. West Africa has become an area of focus for transnational Salafi-jihadi organizations, with rival jihadists now fighting for dominance in the Sahel.

The Islamic State’s largest African affiliate is based in northwest Nigeria—Africa’s most populous country—and conducts frequent attacks into neighboring Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. Boko Haram and an al Qaeda–linked splinter group are also active in this region.

New instability in Chad, whose security forces are engaged in counterterrorism efforts in Mali and the Lake Chad basin, may lift pressure from Salafi-jihadi groups in both theaters.

East Africa. Al Shabaab, an al Qaeda affiliate and the dominant Salafi-jihadi group in East Africa, is vocal about its intent to attack US interests and has begun to plot international terror attacks. The group enjoys de facto control over broad swathes of southern Somalia and can project power in the Somali federal capital Mogadishu and regional capitals, where it regularly attacks senior officials. It seeks to delegitimize and replace the weak Somali Federal Government (SFG)—a task made easier by endemic political dysfunction, corruption, and now open conflict in Mogadishu. Al Shabaab’s governance ambitions extend to ethnic Somali populations in Kenya and Ethiopia, and the group conducts regular attacks in eastern Kenya.

Al Shabaab is positioned to benefit from eroding security conditions in East Africa. Ethiopia’s destabilization is already having regional effects, including weakening counter–al Shabaab efforts in Somalia. The drawing down of the US and African Union counterterrorism missions in Somalia will also reduce pressure on al Shabaab.

The Islamic State has also penetrated the region. Islamic State branches are now active in northern Somalia, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, and northern Mozambique, bordering Tanzania. The insurgency caused the French company Total to shutter a multibillion-dollar natural gas project in northern Mozambique that was the continent’s largest private investment. The Islamic State foothold in Mozambique also marks the Salafi-jihadi movement’s expansion into southern Africa.

North Africa. Salafi-jihadi groups in North Africa are at a low point, but the fragility and grievances that led to their rise remain. The Arab Spring uprisings and subsequent security vacuums allowed Salafi-jihadi groups to organize and forge ties with desperate and coerced populations. The Islamic State’s rise brought a peak in Salafi-jihadi activity in North Africa, particularly from its branches in Libya and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Counterterrorism pressure has weakened Salafi-jihadi groups across North Africa in the past five years.

The insurgencies in Libya and the Sinai are active but contained, and terrorist attacks across the region have decreased. Libya’s political and security crisis will continue to create opportunities for Salafi-jihadi groups, and severe instability or collapse in any North African state would likely bring the Salafi-jihadi threat back to the surface.

West Africa

Lake Chad

Domestic instability is disrupting Chadian involvement in regional counterterrorism efforts, benefiting Salafi-jihadi groups that are already on the offensive in the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin. Chad faces an unpredictable political and security crisis. The country’s longtime president, Idris Deby, died on April 20 from wounds sustained during clashes with rebel groups north of the Chadian capital, N’Djamena, on April 19. A council of military officers established a transitional government and named President Deby’s son, Mahamat Kaka, interim president on April 20 in violation of the country’s constitution. Chadian opposition parties *denounced the coup.

Chad’s military leaders named Albert Pahimi Padacke, a former prime minister and Deby ally, as prime minister of the transitional government on April 26 over the objections of opposition leaders. Chadian security forces have killed at least two civilians protesting against the military takeover  as of April 27. 

The withdrawal of Chadian forces, which are the most effective Sahelian force participating in regional counterterrorism efforts, will lift pressure from Salafi-jihadi groups in the Lake Chad and Sahel regions. Events in Chad may already be drawing Chadian forces away from the UN counterterrorism mission in Mali; 1,200 Chadian soldiers joined MINUSMA in March but are now *preparing to return home. Chad is one of the top troop contributors to MINUSMA with a contribution of nearly 1,500[1] soldiers before the March deployment. (See Figure 2.)

Internal unrest also threatens Chad’s border security and may benefit the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWA) and Boko Haram, both of which are active on the Chad-Nigeria border. The Chadian presence along its Lake Chad border since 2015 has prevented sustained incursions by ISWA or Boko Haram, but a domestic crisis that draws forces away from this region could allow Salafi-jihadi militants to secure a foothold on Chadian terrain. ISWA claimed an attack that killed 12 Chadian soldiers in western Chad’s Lac province near the Nigerian border on April 26, 60 miles north of Chad’s capital, N’Djamena. ISWA will likely conduct future attacks in this area given its ability to retreat to its base across the border in Nigeria. The Chadian army may not be able to repel future ISWA border attacks if soldiers are relocated to protect N’Djamena. Read more about how the crisis in Chad threatens West Africa counterterrorism efforts here.

Figure 2. Top 10 Troop Contributors to MINUSMA

Source: UN Nations Peacekeeping, “MINUSMA Fact Sheet,” February 2021, https://peacekeeping.un.org/en/mission/minusma.

ISWA is expanding its area of operations in northeastern Nigeria. ISWA militants attacked a Nigerian military base and killed over 30 Nigerian soldiers in Mainok in northeastern Nigeria’s Borno state on April 25.[2] The militants entered Mainok in military camouflage and mine-resistant vehicles. The militants set fire to part of the town before retreating due to Nigerian airstrikes.

ISWA militants have been attacking regularly in the area between the Nigeria-Niger border and the Borno regional capital Maiduguri since December 2020. Targeting Mainok, which is located roughly 30 miles west of Maiduguri, may indicate the group’s plans to surround and isolate the city. ISWA’s use of military vehicles paired with its increasing use of explosive capabilities, such as vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, indicates that the group will continue to inflict high casualties on Nigerian security forces even at fortified bases.

Sahel

An al Qaeda–linked group is intensifying its efforts to control populations in central Mali by clashing with rival armed groups. Members of the pastoralist Fulani and the agriculturalist Dogon ethnic groups compete for access to land and water in central Mali. Violence between the Fulani and Dogon has escalated since 2015, when Salafi-jihadi groups, most notably al Qaeda–linked Jama’at Nusrat al Islam wa al Muslimeen (JNIM), began attacking the Dogon and fueling a cycle of retaliatory attacks. Salafi-jihadi militants have stoked the Fulani-Dogon clashes while presenting themselves as a potential security guarantor. JNIM has exploited local violence to gain access to communities by promising protection and allying with vulnerable Fulani populations.

JNIM has recently intensified its efforts to cement its position in central Mali through a combination of military pressure and negotiations. A majority-Fulani JNIM subgroup, the Macina Liberation Front (MLF), is attempting to impose its will on Djenne and the surrounding areas in Mopti region by force. MLF militants have been gathering rice from villagers in Djenne as part of the zakat (religious tax). Dozo hunters seized a portion of the rice in mid-February.

Dozo are traditional hunters in central and southern Mali and the surrounding regions whose ranks include Dogons and members of other ethnic groups. The MLF has since *clashed with Dozo hunters in Djenne. MLF militants killed seven Dozos in their most recent attack in Djenne and burned part of the town on April 21. The MLF has also targeted nearby villages after civilians *fled the fighting in Djenne. The MLF’s involvement in Djenne *disrupted an inter-community peace agreement from August 2019.

The MLF is also facing resistance in Niono, 128 miles west of Djenne in Segou Region. The leader of the powerful ethnic Dogon militia group Dan Na Ambassagou announced on April 5 that he and his men will not abide by a March 14 peace agreement between MLF and a Dogon militia in Niono and vowed to continue fighting JNIM. Da Na Ambassagou, which operates throughout central Mali, has been clashing with the MLF since. MLF militants attacked a Da Na Ambassagou position in Mopti Region’s Bandiagara on April 23–24. (See Figure 3.)

 Figure 3. April 2021 MLF Activity in Central Mali: Key Locations

Source: Authors.

Salafi-jihadi militants kidnapped and killed foreign journalists and a wildlife expert in eastern Burkina Faso. Unidentified militants kidnapped at least two Spanish journalists and an Irish wildlife advocate who were filming a documentary in a national park bordering Benin on April 26. Burkinabe authorities found the journalists’ bodies the next day. JNIM and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) both operate in eastern Burkina Faso and have kidnapped foreigners in the Sahel region. The Associated Press reported on an alleged JNIM audio recording claiming the attack, but neither JNIM nor ISGS have released photos or videos of the incident at time of writing.

East Africa

Somalia

Political and security trends in Somalia are lifting pressure from al Qaeda’s East African affiliate al Shabaab. Al Shabaab has demonstrated an intent to conduct external attacks, including a 9/11-style attack on the US. Security trends in Somalia favor the group as the US troop withdrawal and drawdown of Ethiopian forces contributing to counterterrorism efforts in Somalia will reduce pressure on al Shabaab. A political and security crisis is now rocking Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, following the president’s attempt to extend his term until 2023.

Somalia’s president backed away from an attempted power grab as rival factions grapple for control of Mogadishu. SFG President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmajo” abandoned an attempt to extend his term by two years on April 27. The SFG had failed to hold elections amid political deadlock with the leaders of federal member states. President Farmajo’s term expired in February.

Farmajo’s support base deteriorated rapidly in the past week, with senior political and security leaders—including the prime minister and other former allies—turning against his attempt to hold onto power. Somalia’s armed forces have fragmented during the political crisis, with soldiers fighting for anti-Farmajo clan leaders taking control of strategic parts of the city. Rival forces clashed in Mogadishu on April 25. The hostilities included *clashes between Turkish-trained SFG units and hundreds of Somali National Army (SNA) soldiers that defected from their positions in Middle Shabelle region to oppose Farmajo in Mogadishu. Fear of a larger conflict has driven some civilians to flee the city.

Al Shabaab has sought to capitalize on the political turmoil by targeting police and government officials in Mogadishu. Somalia’s police commissioner fired Mogadishu’s police chief on April 11 for attempting to prevent the parliamentary vote to extend Farmajo’s term. Al Shabaab has been attempting to inflame existing security sector tensions by escalating attacks on strained police forces. Al Shabaab *claimed to attack at least two police stations in Mogadishu’s Mohamud Harbi and Bar Ubah neighborhoods on April 14. Suspected al Shabaab militants *killed a Wardhigley district official on April 16, the same day SNA troops clashed with security forces loyal to the fired police chief.

Al Shabaab seized a town after security forces left for Mogadishu. SNA forces withdrew from Ba’adweyne town in central Somalia’s Mudug region on April 14 to *focus on political tensions in the capital. Al Shabaab seized the town on April 15, filling the security vacuum, and may seek to *seize other towns in the area.

Mozambique

French company Total indefinitely suspended its operations in northern Mozambique due to the deteriorating security situation. Total declared force majeure and confirmed the withdrawal of all its personnel from the Afungi peninsula site on April 26. Islamic State–linked militants overran a coastal town near the Total site in northern Mozambique in late March. The Total project is the largest private investment in Africa and was meant to drive Mozambique’s economic growth in the coming decades. The International Monetary Fund had projected 38 percent economic growth for Mozambique in 2021 in a 2016 forecast but has now revised its forecast down to just 2.1 percent to account for the disruption of natural gas plans and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ethiopia

Ethiopia’s June elections are a flashpoint for insecurity that threatens the country’s cohesion. The Ethiopian federal government delayed planned elections from August 2020 to June 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The election delay was a catalyst for the current conflict between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Ethiopian federal government in northern Ethiopia’s Tigray region.

The elections are also raising political tensions between the federal government and other regional states. Political parties in Somali regional state suspended election activities in mid-April, joining Oromia regional state parties that had already announced boycotts. A failure to hold elections in Oromia would delegitimize Abiy’s administration and heighten existing tensions among Oromo groups, the federal government, and neighboring states. The elections are also a source of tension among regional states, as evidenced by a dispute between Somali and Afar regional state officials over *polling *station sites.

Eritrea admitted to its military presence in northern Ethiopia’s Tigray region for the first time. Eritrea’s information minister acknowledged on April 16 that Eritrean forces are present in Ethiopia, saying that Eritrea and Ethiopia have agreed that Eritrean forces will withdraw. The minister’s statement is likely a reaction to an April 15 statement by a UN official noting that Eritrean troops, which have been accused of human rights abuses, have not yet left Tigray despite international pressure and a promise by the Ethiopian prime minister. Eritrean forces have been present in Tigray at least since November 2020 to support Ethiopian federal forces against the TPLF.

North Africa

 Tunisia

The murderer of a French policewoman may have been in contact with a Tunisia-based Salafi-jihadi group. A Tunisian man living in France, Jamal Qarshan, stabbed and killed a French policewoman near Paris on April 23. A French officer shot and killed Qarshan at the scene. Qarshan *called a suspected Salafi-jihadi group member living in Sousse in northeastern Tunisia before the attack. Tunisian authorities arrested the contact and are investigating his relation to Qarshan.

French authorities are looking through Qarshan’s *phone and computer to determine whether he received outside help. French authorities claim that Qarshan likely self-radicalized and found Salafi-jihadi propaganda on his phone. Qarshan had watched Salafi-jihadi propaganda shortly before the attack. Qarshan’s relatives claimed he was depressed and seeing a psychiatrist in Paris.

Counterterrorism pressure in Tunisia and neighboring Libya has reduced Salafi-jihadi activity in Tunisia in recent years. Militants linked to al Qaeda and the Islamic State retain a haven in a mountainous region in western Tunisia bordering Algeria, where they conduct regular defensive attacks targeting security patrols. Covert Salafi-jihadi networks remain active in Tunisia’s more populated coastal regions. Three Islamic State militants killed a Tunisian National Guard officer and wounded another in Sousse on September 6, 2020.


[1] UN Nations Peacekeeping, “Troop and Police Contributors,” February 28, 2021, https://peacekeeping.un.org/en/troop-and-police-contributors.

[2] SITE Intelligence Group, “ISWAP Claims 14 Deaths in Attack on Nigerian Military Post in Mainok, Capturing Multiple Vehicles and Weapons,” April 27, 2021, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com.

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Africa File: Islamic State withdraws from northern Mozambique town, but challenges remain

[Notice: The Critical Threats Project frequently cites sources from foreign domains. All such links are identified with an asterisk (*) for the reader's awareness.]

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An Islamic State affiliate relinquished control of Palma in northern Mozambique after inflicting dozens of casualties, displacing thousands, and looting money and supplies. While Mozambican security forces have returned to Palma, they lack the capability to secure the area or recapture significant terrain from the militants, who have held another coastal town since August 2020. The Palma attack marks a step change for the Mozambique insurgency but it is not an anomaly for Sub-Saharan Africa, where Salafi-jihadi groups are on the offensive in multiple countries.

In this Africa File:

  • Mozambique. Islamic State–linked militants withdrew from Palma in Mozambique’s far north after more than a week, but subsequent attacks are likely. Mozambique’s military faces several challenges that will prevent it from recapturing significant terrain.
  • Somalia. Al Shabaab is attacking bases in areas surrounding Somalia’s capital to increase its freedom of movement on key roads. Somalia’s political crisis is ongoing and unlikely to end following a controversial two-year extension of the president’s mandate.
  • Ethiopia. Fighting is ongoing in northern Ethiopia’s Tigray region and Eritrean troops remain present. Tensions are high between Ethiopia and both Sudan and Egypt.
  • Libya. The Libyan National Army commander and his external backers launched an effort to gain popular support before Libyan elections in December 2021.
  • Sahel. Al Qaeda’s Mali affiliate attempted a large attack on a UN base in northern Mali. A peace agreement between Salafi-jihadi militants and ethnic-based militias may be breaking down in central Mali.
  • Lake Chad. The Islamic State’s West Africa Province is attacking aid workers to seize resources while sustaining operations on multiple fronts.

Latest publications:

  • Mozambique. Emily Estelle discussed the Islamic State in Mozambique on BBC World News. Watch here, or listen to a recent radio interview here. Estelle and Jessica Trisko Darden recently published a report on Mozambique, including a forecast and recommended policy response. Read the report here, and view the interactive graphic here.

Read Further On:

East Africa

North Africa

West Africa

Figure 1. The Salafi-Jihadi Movement in Africa: April 2021

Source: Emily Estelle.

[Notice: The Critical Threats Project frequently cites sources from foreign domains. All such links are identified with an asterisk (*) for the reader’s awareness.]


Overview: The Salafi-jihadi threat in Africa

Updated April 1, 2021

The Salafi-jihadi movement, which includes al Qaeda and the Islamic State, is active across northern, eastern, and western Africa and is expanding and deepening its presence on the continent. This movement, like any insurgency, draws strength from access to vulnerable and aggrieved populations. Converging trends, including failing states and regional instability, are creating favorable conditions for the Salafi-jihadi movement’s expansion. Meanwhile, counterterrorism efforts rely on the continued efforts of international coalitions, support for which is eroding, and on states and local authorities that have demonstrated an inability to govern effectively.

West Africa. The Salafi-jihadi movement has spread rapidly in West Africa by exploiting ethnic grievances and state weaknesses that include human rights abuses, corruption, and ineffectiveness. An al Qaeda affiliate co-opted the 2012 Tuareg rebellion in Mali and has continued to expand southward through the Sahel region into central Mali and the peripheries of Burkina Faso. An Islamic State–linked group is active in the same area, particularly western Niger. Sahel groups have not yet plotted attacks outside West Africa but have sought to drive Western security and economic presence out of the region while building lucrative smuggling and kidnapping-for-ransom enterprises. An al Qaeda–linked group in Mali is infiltrating governance structures, advancing an overarching Salafi-jihadi objective, and expanding into Gulf of Guinea countries. West Africa has become an area of focus for transnational Salafi-jihadi organizations, with rival jihadists now fighting for dominance in the Sahel.

The Islamic State’s largest African affiliate is based in northwest Nigeria—Africa’s most populous country—and conducts frequent attacks into neighboring Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. Boko Haram and an al Qaeda–linked splinter group are also active in this region.

East Africa. Al Shabaab, an al Qaeda affiliate and the dominant Salafi-jihadi group in East Africa, is vocal about its intent to attack US interests and has begun to plot international terror attacks. The group enjoys de facto control over broad swathes of southern Somalia and can project power in the Somali federal capital Mogadishu and regional capitals, where it regularly attacks senior officials. It seeks to delegitimize and replace the weak Somali Federal Government (SFG)—a task made easier by endemic political dysfunction and corruption in Mogadishu. Al Shabaab’s governance ambitions extend to ethnic Somali populations in Kenya and Ethiopia, and the group conducts regular attacks in eastern Kenya.

Al Shabaab is positioned to benefit from eroding security conditions in East Africa. Ethiopia’s destabilization is already having regional effects, including weakening counter–al Shabaab efforts in Somalia. The drawing down of the US and African Union counterterrorism missions in Somalia will also reduce pressure on al Shabaab.

The Islamic State has also penetrated the region. Islamic State branches are now active in northern Somalia, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, and northern Mozambique, bordering Tanzania, where its affiliate seized a second Mozambican port in March 2021. The Islamic State foothold in Mozambique marks the Salafi-jihadi movement’s expansion into southern Africa.

North Africa. Salafi-jihadi groups in North Africa are at a low point, but the fragility and grievances that led to their rise remain. The Arab Spring uprisings and subsequent security vacuums allowed Salafi-jihadi groups to organize and forge ties with desperate and coerced populations. The Islamic State’s rise brought a peak in Salafi-jihadi activity in North Africa, particularly from its branches in Libya and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Counterterrorism pressure has weakened Salafi-jihadi groups across North Africa in the past five years. The insurgencies in Libya and the Sinai are active but contained, and terrorist attacks across the region have decreased. Libya’s political and security crisis will continue to create opportunities for Salafi-jihadi groups, and severe instability or collapse in any North African state would likely bring the Salafi-jihadi threat back to the surface.

East Africa

Mozambique

The Islamic State in Mozambique (IS-M)[i] temporarily withdrew from Palma but retains a position of strength in northern Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province. IS-M overran Palma from March 24 to April 2, displacing more than 14,500 people from the town and tens of thousands more in Palma district. This civilian displacement adds to the more than 700,000 people already displaced from Cabo Delgado province due to fighting since 2017. Militants killed at least 87 people, including about a dozen foreigners, during the Palma attack, and approximately 20,000 people remain missing. The attack also disrupted a multibillion-dollar offshore liquified natural gas project run by the French company Total.

Mozambican security forces launched a failed operation to recapture Palma on March 28. They then claimed to regain control of Palma on April 4, after militants withdrew from the city to the surrounding bush. Total’s contractors accused Mozambican police and soldiers of looting facilities in Palma following the militants’ withdrawal.

Mozambique’s military is ill prepared to counter IS-M. The Mozambican security forces’ vulnerabilities include a lack of weapons training. A disruption in air support will also hinder operations in northern Mozambique. A contract between  Mozambique’s interior ministry  and South African private military contractor Dyck’s Advisory Group (DAG) expired on April 6. DAG provided air support to Mozambican forces and worked to evacuate civilians during the Palma attack. Mozambique now *plans to provide its own air support through Mozambican pilots trained to fly helicopters by South African defense contractor Paramount, through a contract with Mozambique’s defense ministry.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC), an intergovernmental block of South African countries, *met in Mozambique’s capital from April 8 to 9 to discuss the Cabo Delgado crisis. Zimbabwe’s president said the group agreed to mobilize a SADC brigade to intervene in the conflict. The Mozambican government has not confirmed this discussion, however, and Mozambique’s president said on April 8 that Mozambique will not accept foreign support on certain issues over fears of compromising Mozambique’s sovereignty. The SADC agreed to meet again on April 29.

Forecast: IS-M militants will likely exploit DAG’s absence by targeting Mueda, a town housing the Mozambican military’s main base in Cabo Delgado province. DAG forces targeted militants between Mueda and Namacande in November 2020. IS-M has not yet attacked Mueda, but it ambushed a military vehicle traveling from Nangade town to Mueda in early March and attacked army posts near Mueda in mid-March. (As of April 14, 2021.)

Somalia

Al Shabaab is attacking bases in the Lower Shabelle region to increase its freedom of movement on the roads toward Somalia’s capital Mogadishu. Al Shabaab targets the SFG in Mogadishu in an ongoing campaign to weaken and destabilize the SFG, which faces an ongoing political crisis after failing to hold federal presidential elections in February.

Al Shabaab conducted complex attacks in the Lower Shabelle region’s Barire and Awdheegle towns in early April. The towns have bridges that provide access into Mogadishu and host Somali National Army (SNA) bases whose missions include preventing al Shabaab from crossing into Mogadishu with explosive-laden vehicles. Al Shabaab detonated suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (SVBIEDs) at the SNA bases in Barire and Awdheegle on April 3. Militants then clashed with troops at Barire before the SNA regained control of the base. Al Shabaab prevented reinforcements from arriving at the bases by targeting soldiers with a SVBIED near Lafole, about 22 miles east of Barire, the day of the attack. Al Shabaab circulated photos of the damage and casualties it caused at Barire on April 5.[ii]

Al Shabaab previously controlled Barire and nearby villages. Militants damaged Barire’s bridge in September 2017. It remained unrepaired at least until June 2019. African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and SNA forces *recaptured Barire from al Shabaab in April 2019. Security forces have clashed with al Shabaab in the area since.

The controversial extension of the Somali president’s term is unlikely to end the country’s political crisis. The SFG failed to hold federal presidential elections in early February and has been *unable to organize elections since. Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmajo” signed a law on April 13 that extends his presidential mandate for two years. This comes after Somalia’s Lower House of Parliament voted on April 12 to hold direct federal presidential elections in 2023. Somalia’s Upper House of Parliament deemed the vote unconstitutional. The vote has already caused tension among security personnel. Mogadishu’s police chief attempted to unilaterally suspend Parliament to prevent the vote but the country’s police commissioner relieved him of duty.

Ethiopia

Fighting in northern Ethiopia’s Tigray region is concentrated north of the regional capital Mekelle. Ethiopian federal forces claimed victory over the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in November 2020 when they seized Mekelle. Fighting has continued since, however. Eritrean forces have continued deploying to Tigray to support fighting the TPLF. Eritrea’s continued involvement in Tigray contradicts Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s promise in late March that Eritrean forces would withdraw from the region. Limited reporting indicates that Eritrean forces most recently deployed to Tigray through Rama, an Ethiopian town along the Eritrean-Ethiopian border, around April 12. This latest deployment of Eritrean forces moved northward from Rama toward Axum and Adwa towns, northwest of Mekelle.

Ethiopia simultaneously faces ongoing tensions with Sudan. Sudan and Ethiopia’s border tensions have continued since December 2020, when Sudanese forces took advantage of Ethiopia’s distraction with the Tigray conflict to seize disputed land. The tensions most recently *caused Sudan to request that the UN replace Ethiopian soldiers with soldiers from another nation to the peacekeeping mission in Sudan’s disputed Abyei territory on April 6. This occurred on the same day that Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt failed to reach an agreement on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) during talks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Sudan and Egypt rejected Ethiopia’s *request to share data on GERD operations on April 10 as Ethiopia unilaterally plans a second filling of the GERD this July. A possible military conflict between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan over natural resources would further threaten Ethiopia’s and eastern Africa’s stability.

North Africa

Libya

Libyan National Army (LNA) commander Khalifa Haftar and his external backers launched an effort to gain popular support before Libyan elections in December 2021. Haftar may be planning to run as a presidential candidate in the UN-facilitated elections, which aim to create a unified Libyan government. Haftar *announced that the LNA’s Military Investment Authority will construct three new cities in the Benghazi area that will include roughly 20,000 housing units designated for families of “martyrs” who died fighting for the LNA. This announcement comes as Benghazi, the largest city in LNA-controlled eastern Libya, is experiencing an uptick in violence. Signs of fragmentation in the LNA, including within its leadership, indicate that Haftar’s position has become more vulnerable since the end of his attempted takeover of Tripoli in June 2020 and the formation of the new transitional government in February 2021. Haftar hosted a meeting with new armed forces officers, including heads of the LNA land, sea, and air forces, on April 5, signaling an effort to solidify his position.

Haftar is leveraging his external ties to maintain influence and gain popular support in eastern Libya. The ambitious city-building plan likely reflects support from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a longtime LNA backer, though the LNA has also amassed significant resources by embedding itself into the eastern Libyan economy. Haftar also leveraged his ties with Russia and the UAE to facilitate the delivery of thousands of Russian Sputnik COVID-19 vaccines into Libya in an effort to gain popular support. Libya’s interim Government of National Unity (GNU) also announced that it *coordinated with Turkey on April 12 to bring thousands of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines into Libya. Haftar may also be trying to strengthen relations with Egypt, which has historically supported the LNA but has signaled willingness to work with the transitional government. Haftar announced publicly that he wants to give Libyan citizenship to 10 million Egyptians. Egypt will benefit from resettling millions in Libya as the country is dealing with a rapidly growing population and limited resources. Several Benghazi municipal leaders *met with an Egyptian delegation to discuss reopening a consulate in Benghazi on April 8.

West Africa

Sahel

French-backed UN forces thwarted a large-scale Salafi-jihadi attack on a UN base. Chadian peacekeepers in the UN’s Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) killed at least 40 Jama’at Nusrat al Islam wa al Muslimeen (JNIM) members on April 2. JNIM militants attacked a MINUSMA base in Aguelhoc in northern Mali, and MINUSMA forces repelled the attack with assistance from the French Operation Barkhane. MINUSMA Chief Mahamat Saleh Annadif claimed that the soldiers killed a JNIM lieutenant Abdullah ag Albaka in the attack, however, photos indicate that the body in question is JNIM militant Abu Khaled al Tunisi, who is much younger than Albaka. JNIM militants *wore Chadian army uniforms in an attempt to obscure their identities during the attack. Aguelhoc residents *called on MINUSMA to relocate the base, fearing that it will attract another JNIM attack.

A peace agreement between JNIM and ethnic militias may be breaking down. The pastoralist Fulani and the agriculturalist Dogon ethnic groups compete for access to land and water in central Mali. Violence between the Fulani and Dogon has escalated since 2015, when Salafi-jihadi groups, most notably JNIM, began attacking the Dogon and fueling a cycle of retaliatory attacks. Salafi-jihadi militants have stoked the Fulani-Dogon clashes while presenting themselves as a potential security guarantor. JNIM has exploited local violence to gain access to local communities by promising protection and allying with vulnerable Fulani populations.

JNIM has recently intensified its efforts to cement its position in central Mali through a combination of military pressure and negotiations. A majority-Fulani JNIM subgroup, the Macina Liberation Front (MLF), besieged the village of Farabougou in central Mali’s Niono region in October 2020, and the Malian Army has since *claimed to have liberated the town. Members of Mali’s High Islamic Council (HIC), an independent religious body, facilitated an oral *cease-fire agreement between Dogon militias and MLF militants on March 14. The agreement states that residents of Niono will be allowed to move freely for one month and that the MLF will release a dozen prisoners. Dogon militias will in exchange allow Salafi-jihadi militants to enter and preach in Niono villages.

The leader of the powerful Dogon militia group Dan Na Ambassagou, Youssof Toloba, claimed on April 5 that he and his men will not abide by the peace agreement and vowed to continue the fight against JNIM militants. The Dan Na Ambassagou is active throughout central Mali and may encourage Dogon militias within Niono to reject the cease-fire agreement.  Toloba’s statement builds on early signs of cracks in the cease-fire. MLF militants clashed with Dogon militias in Niono’s Dogofry village on March 15, one day after the cease-fire announcement.

Lake Chad

The Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWA) is attacking aid workers to seize resources. ISWA militants *loaded their vehicles with supplies after attacking several aid warehouses carrying relief supplies in Damasak town in Borno state on April 10. ISWA has conducted several attacks against aid workers in Borno since December 2020. The April 10 raids were part of a larger attack against a Nigerian military camp, indicating that  ISWA  entered the town with plans to target both Nigerian security forces and aid workers.

ISWA is sustaining its operations on multiple fronts. ISWA conducted attacks in Cameroon, *Niger, and Chad throughout April while continuing its primary campaign in Borno.


[i] This insurgent group goes by many names, and the group itself has not declared one. CTP refers to the group as the Islamic State in Mozambique (IS-M). This choice should not be taken as an overstatement of the group’s relationship to Islamic State leadership nor as a dismissal of the complications inherent in assessing a group’s ideology, composition, or affiliations. For more on naming, see page 5 in Emily Estelle and Jessica Trisko Darden, Combating the Islamic State’s Spread in Africa: Assessment and Recommendations for Mozambique, Critical

Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, February 24, 2021,  https://www.criticalthreats.org/analysis/combating-the-islamic-states-spread-in-africa-assessment-and-recommendations-for-mozambique.

[ii] SITE Intelligence Group, “Shabaab Provides Photo Report Documenting Suicide Raid on Somali Base in Barire, Incites Fighters to ‘Redouble Jihad’,” April 5, 2021, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com.

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