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African Militant Islamist Groups Again on the Rise

Violent events linked to militant Islamist groups in Africa rose by 38 percent over the past year. All major groups show an increase in activity.

Africa's Active Militant Islamist Groups, April 2018
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A review of violent events involving militant Islamist groups in Africa over the past year ending March 31 reveals the following trends:

  • Violent events linked to militant Islamist groups in Africa over the last year increased by 38 percent over the previous 12-month period (2,933 vs. 2,117). This continues an upward trend observed in 2017 after a brief decline in 2016. The surge in activity is not the result of any one factor. Rather, it reflects increases associated with all major militant Islamist groups on the continent—al Shabaab, Boko Haram, Islamic State (ISIS), and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
  • Al Shabaab was linked to 58 percent of all reported violent events by militant Islamist groups in Africa (1,749 out of 2,933) over the last year. It was also associated with the greatest number of reported fatalities (4,834 out of 10,535), amounting to 46 percent of the total.
  • While their activity has increased, the major militant groups each continue to be geographically concentrated (i.e., Somalia, Lake Chad Basin, and central Mali). This highlights the distinct local factors associated with each context as opposed to a single monolithic threat.
  • Reported fatalities linked to militant Islamist activity in Africa over the last year increased by 9 percent, reversing a downward trend observed since 2015. Nevertheless, the 10,535 reported fatalities over the previous 12-month period remains substantially lower than the peak of 18,728 reported fatalities in 2015.
  • The reported violent events linked to AQIM and its affiliates have significantly increased—from 79 in 2017 to 212 in 2018. This jump largely coincides with the formation of the coalition, Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM), which was formed in March of 2017.
  • ISIS remains most active in Egypt—305 out of the 426 reported events associated with ISIS in Africa were in Egypt over the last year. Similarly, 77 percent of all reported fatalities linked to ISIS in Africa were in Egypt during this timeframe (1,340 out of 1,734).