Islamist attacks in Africa have doubled since 2013, with almost 10,500 dead in 2019

Civiles y miembros de las fuerzas de Somalia tras un atentado de Al Shabaab en Mogadiscio

Civilians and members of Somalia forces following an attack by Al Shabaab in Mogadishu – Abdirahman Mohamed / dpa

The Sahel and Lake Chad record the greatest increases in activity, while Al Shabaab seems to have lost strength


Africa is increasingly becoming the new focus of jihadist activity, as evidenced by the fact that the actions of the numerous terrorist groups operating on the continent have doubled since 2013 to almost 3,500 violent acts recorded in 2019 by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS), under the US Department of Defense.

Islamist attacks in Africa have doubled since 2013, with almost 10,500 dead in 2019
Islamist attacks in Africa have doubled since 2013, with almost 10,500 dead in 2019

According to their latest report, during the last year the actions of jihadist groups increased by 14 percent, following the upward trend of recent years, leaving almost 10,500 dead, 7 percent more than the previous year, ending yes to the reduction in the number of victims initiated in 2015.

In total, there are about two dozen active Islamist groups in Africa that operate in fourteen countries, although five large theaters of operations are identified. Until now, Somalia was the main epicenter of jihadist action on the continent, but in the last year the activity has gained special virulence both in the Sahel and in the Lake Chad basin.

Thus, in Somalia, the actions of Al Shabaab, a terrorist group linked to Al Qaeda, decreased by 14 percent in 2019 and left 29 percent fewer fatalities than the previous year – 40 percent less than 2017–. In total, there were 2,790 dead. According to the ACSS, Al Shabaab's activity now accounts for 38 percent of all attacks, when during the last decade it used to be half, and 27 percent of deaths.

In the case of the Sahel, it has been the scenario in which the fastest increase in jihadist activity has taken place. Specifically, in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger it has accounted for 800 acts of violence linked to these groups, twice as much as a year earlier and following the trend initiated in 2015. In total, 2,600 deaths have been recorded, twice as many as in 2018, with Burkina Faso as the main focus instead of Mali.

In the countries bathed by Lake Chad – Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria and Niger – the activity of Boko Haram and its spin-off, Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA), increased 35 percent in the last year, with a total of 765 violent incidents accounted for and 3,225 dead (4 percent more).

Although the group that leads Abubakar Shekau is the most attacks perpetrated and the one that most targeted civilians, ISWA experienced the largest increase in lethal activity. In addition, the ACSS emphasizes that the actions of these groups have intensified in the last year in Cameroon, Niger and Chad, while in Nigeria they have remained within the same trend.

With regard to North Africa, jihadist activity in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia has barely undergone changes, with 347 actions and 1,060 deaths counted, representing 9 percent fewer victims compared to 2018.

As a counterpart, a new scenario is emerging in northern Mozambique, where violent episodes have tripled in 2019, to a total of 200 and 710 fatalities.

Behind most of these actions is a group popularly known as Al Shabaab but that is not linked to the Somali organization of the same name, although the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for six attacks in this country in the last year, ACSS said. , warning that jihadist activity can be expected to continue to increase in this scenario.

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