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Militant Islamist Group Activity in the Sahel Rises

Expansion of violent events linked to an array of militant Islamist groups in the Sahel highlights the growing scope of security challenges facing this region.

Africa's Active Militant Islamist Groups, as of Sep 2018

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A review of violent events involving militant Islamist groups in Africa over the past year ending September 30 reveals the following:

  • The violent events linked to militant Islamist groups in the Sahel has tripled over the past 12 months, reaching over 377 episodes and 895 fatalities. This escalation largely reflects the efforts of the coalition of militant groups operating under the Jama’at Nusrat al Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM) umbrella. Also contributing to this escalation in the Sahel is Abu Walid al Sahrawi’s Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), which was linked to roughly a quarter of all violent events involving militant Islamist groups that occurred in the Sahel in the past 12 months. Reports suggest growing collaboration between ISGS, Ansaroul Islam, and JNIM.
  • For the continent as a whole, reported violent events linked to militant Islamist groups over the previous 12-month period showed a marginal increase (2,919 vs. 2,767).
  • Al Shabaab continues to be the most active militant Islamist group in Africa, being linked to 1,562 events over the past 12 months, roughly equivalent to the number of incidents reported over the previous year. This represents 54 percent of the total reported violent events associated with militant Islamist groups in Africa. Leaving out the Mogadishu bombing in October 2017, which resulted in the deaths of an estimated 600 people, the approximately 280 civilian-targeted fatalities of the past year linked to al Shabaab represents a roughly 50-percent decline over the previous year, the lowest level since 2012. Total fatalities associated with al Shabaab, including with security forces (over 4,000), remain at levels similar to recent years, however.
  • Reflecting its resilience, Boko Haram-linked violent activity over the past 12 months (an estimated 534 events resulting in a reported 3,048 fatalities) has remained consistent with levels observed over recent years.
  • ISIS-linked activity in Africa has shown a marked decline in the past 12 months, dropping 17 percent, to 281 events and 1,371 fatalities. ISIS remains most active in Egypt. Over 80 percent of reported events associated with ISIS in Africa over the last year were in the Sinai Peninsula. Violent events linked to unaffiliated militant Islamist groups in the Sinai saw even more dramatic declines. Only 5 events and 35 fatalities were associated with these groups, representing decreases of 75 percent and 15 percent, respectively.