The Africa File is a biweekly analysis and assessment of the Salafi-jihadi movement in Africa and related security and political dynamics.
Ethiopia Crisis Update: Salafi-jihadi militants attempt to exploit Ethiopia crisis
[Notice: The Critical Threats Project frequently cites sources from foreign domains. All such links are identified with an asterisk (*) for the reader's awareness.]
Salafi-jihadi militants are exploiting the growing security vacuum in Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s intelligence service claimed to have arrested 14 militants linked to either al Qaeda affiliate al Shabaab or the Islamic State on November 14 for plotting attacks across Ethiopia, including in the capital. The agency *said the militants were taking advantage of the federal government’s preoccupation with the Tigray region conflict.
Aspects of the reported arrest are suspect, however. One of the militants named in the recent reporting was previously *arrested and convicted and should have likely still been in *prison. Alternately, this individual may have escaped or been released, or another individual with the same name may be involved in the latest attack plot.
Ethiopian security forces previously arrested Salafi-jihadi militants plotting attacks in Ethiopia in September 2019, likely in a bid to exploit increasing ethic violence and the fraught political transition at the time. Such factors are present in Ethiopia’s current conflict.
Ethiopia’s conflict is increasingly regionalizing with an attack on Eritrea’s capital. Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) forces launched rockets toward an airport in the Eritrean capital, Asmara, on November 14. A TPLF official said the attack was retaliation for Eritrean involvement in Tigray and threatened additional attacks. The Eritrean government has not commented on the attacks thus far. Sudan could become entangled in the conflict should its government use potential support for the TPLF as leverage in a land dispute with Ethiopia.