Islamist Militant Attacks on Rise Across Africa, IHS Says

  • Assaults climbed to 738 in 2015, leaving 4,600 people dead
  • Boko Haram and al-Qaeda affiliates seen as the major threats

The number of Islamist militant attacks in Africa more than quadrupled from 2009 to 2015 as insurgents in northern Nigeria and Somalia stepped up their campaigns of violence, according to IHS Inc.

IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre recorded 4,600 deaths from 738 militant attacks across the continent last year, while in 2009 there were 171 assaults and 541 fatalities, according to research it published on Monday. Nigeria’s Boko Haram, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Somalia’s al-Shabaab were the most active groups, IHS said.

Collaboration between Boko Haram and Islamic State, a battle between AQIM and IS over recruits and territory in north and west Africa, and the “continuing resilience” of al-Shabaab in the face of growing pressure, are emerging trends that suggest attacks could “further intensify,” according to IHS.

Boko Haram, which has been fighting since 2009 to impose its version of Islamic law in Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy, has changed tactics since the purported making of a pledge of allegiance to IS in March 2015, the research group said. Increased use of suicide-bombings and “professionalization of propaganda content,” are some of the main signs, according to IHS.

In Competition

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which has killed more than 70 people since November in assaults targeting hotels in Ivory Coast, Mali and Burkina Faso, has turned to new, civilian targets after being mainly focused on Malian, French and United Nations troops in Mali, IHS said. The group may be in competition against IS, “with a seeming willingness to escalate violence against a common target set” with each bidding “to outdo the other.”

While there’s been an international focus on IS and AQIM threats, the “ongoing and expanding threat” from al-Shabaab in East Africa has been “under-appreciated,” IHS said. In 2015 and early 2016, al-Shabaab has “underlined its expanding capabilities in Somalia” by overrunning three bases used by an African Union peacekeeping mission, known as Amisom, “inflicting substantial casualties,” IHS said.

The al-Qaeda-affiliated group “has successfully isolated key military and peacekeeping positions through southern and central Somalia, enabling it to mass for such assaults and move into territory vacated by Amisom and local forces,” it said.

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