Gaborone – Africa is the new centre of global terrorism and extremism as of June 2021, a report by the United Nations Security Council says.
Pointing to the rise of Islamic State affiliates who are trying to establish caliphates across Africa, the Security Council says global efforts to counter terrorism should increasingly focus on the continent.
The Security Council has five permanent members – Britain, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States – and 10 rotational non-permanent seats.
According to the UN report, “The most striking development of the period under review was the emergence of Africa as the region most affected by terrorism, and in which the largest numbers of casualties inflicted by groups designated under Security Council resolution 1267 (1999) occurred.”
It goes on, “One of the most troubling events of early 2021 was the deterioration of the security situation in Cabo Delgado Province in northern Mozambique, where the local ISIL affiliate stormed and briefly held a strategic port near the border with the United Republic of Tanzania before withdrawing with spoils, positioning it for future raids in the area.”
The UN organ warns that terrorists continue to recruit new fighters to their ranks under the leadership of the likes of Tanzanian Ahmed Mahmoud Hassan, and it is attracting supporters from Burundi, the DRC and Kenya; while noting that “Some South African and Kenyan members of ISCAP are reported to be former supporters of Al-Qaida”.
“As a destination for economic migrants, Cabo Delgado is an easy arena to which ISCAP (Islamic State of Central Africa Province) can transfer personnel. The region also hosts numerous trafficking activities and is a major entry point to Africa for drugs from Asia,” the report says.
It is said ISCAP is self-financing through informal and illegal means.
“Members live clandestinely and extort local populations. The group collected between US$1 million and US$2 million from the looting of area banks. Official administrative buildings were raided, and identity cards, driver’s licences and passports likely stolen. It also demonstrated the ability to operate at sea,” the report says.
The reports notes that the autonomy of ISCAP, the large number of small operational cells and the absence of significant counter-terrorist measures have effectively turned the group into a major threat with the potential to develop further, possibly west or north into Tanzania.
In the DRC, ISCAP extended its area of operation in early 2021 in North Kivu, Ituri, South Kivu and Tanganyika provinces, attacking military and civilian targets.
Regarding North Africa, the report says in Morocco, there is a growing threat from Al-Qaida and ISIL supporters.
It says the security of Algeria is compromised by instability across its southern borders in Mali and the Niger.
“Approximately 700 Algerian nationals joined ISIL and Al-Qaida in the conflict zone. Some 140, including 95 dual nationals, remain active abroad; 445 have been reported as inactive, including 240 who are deceased.”
The report says the Tunisian Al-Qaida affiliate Uqbah ibn Nafi‘ Battalion recently lost five of its senior members, weakening its capability and forcing it further underground; while in Libya, six ISIL members were recently arrested by a counter-terrorism taskforce.
In Egypt, the report says, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM), which pledged allegiance to ISIL in 2014, has between 800 and 1,200 fighters.
In West Africa, the report says the reported death in May 2021 of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Mohammed Shekau had left that terror group significantly weakened.
The report says the reported coup d’état in Mali on 24 May underscores the country’s political instability.
“JNIM has consolidated its influence, increasingly claiming populated areas and engaging with local actors. Community leaders are forced to engage in dialogue with JNIM affiliates if they want to protect civilians from violence, as illustrated by the ceasefire agreement negotiated in March by traditional dozo hunters with Katiba Macina in the circle of Niono,’ says the report.
The report says a JNIM terror cell was dismantled in Senegal in January, but significant risks remained in Côte d’Ivoire, Benin, Ghana and Togo.
Kidnapping for ransom remained a primary source of funding for terrorist groups, with foreign workers being targeted. Recent mass kidnappings in north-western Nigeria were also confirmed as for-profit activities.
Touching on East Africa, the UN report says Al-Qaida-affiliated Harakat Al-Shabaab Al-Mujahidin (Al-Shabaab) continued operations in Somalia, exploiting the security vacuum created by the preoccupation of security forces with pre-election violence.
“In southern and central Somalia, the group encountered little resistance in capturing several towns and villages in areas that had previously been hostile to it. Heavily armed fighters moved into Mogadishu and occupied strategic positions from which they continue to plan and conduct attacks, forcing residents to flee. The United States military withdrawal and the partial drawdown of the African Union Mission in Somalia left Somali special forces struggling to contain Al-Shabaab without strategic support,” the report says.
The report said Al-Shabaab had increased use of drones to conduct reconnaissance flyovers and record activities of security forces.