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How Islamist militant groups are gaining strength in Africa

How Islamist militant groups are gaining strength in Africa


These are violent attacks recorded in Africa
in the first 5 months of 2018. Many are by groups fighting in the ongoing
civil wars in South Sudan and the Central African Republic. Others are riots against governments in southeastern
Africa. But these are different. They’re attacks
Islamist militant groups. Some claim to be branches of the Islamic State. While others claim to be al-Qaeda; Both groups are usually associated with the
Middle East. But for the past decade, Islamist militant
groups have been spreading across Africa, where they’ve continued to find places to organize
and launch attacks. Their success has pushed these fragile states
into deeper turmoil and it’s made the region one of the most dangerous in the world. To understand how these terrorist groups got to
Africa and why they’re so successful there, it helps to start in Nigeria. Nigeria has the biggest population and economy in Africa. Wealth, industry, and major cities are mostly
in the south. While the north is poor, marginalized, isolated,
and home to most of Nigeria’s Muslim population. It was here that a radical Islamist group
called Boko Haram took shape and turned violent in 2009. They started razing villages, slaughtered
men and women, and kidnapped children who were forced to carry out suicide attacks. The Nigerian government cracked down, but
the group continued to grow. In 2014, they got international attention when they kidnapped close to 300 school girls in Chibok. Bring our girls back! 276 are out. By then, they controlled a huge swath of territory
in northern Nigeria where they imposed strict Sharia law and declared it an Islamic caliphate. In 2015 they became affiliated with the Islamic
State, which had a caliphate of its own in Iraq and Syria. Within a few years, the group killed
nearly 25,000 people, and was on track to become the deadliest terror group in the world,
eventually surpassing ISIS. 5 African countries backed by the US, UK,
and France formed a task force to battle Boko Haram. By April 2015 they’d liberated major towns and
seemed to push Boko Haram out. But three years later, Boko Haram is still
active. The group had shifted its focus to the Lake Chad region, one of the poorest places in
the world. The lake touches the borders of Nigeria, Niger,
Chad and Cameroon , but none of the state governments have any real presence here. This is where Boko Haram is operating. They’ve been raiding local villages for
food and capturing men to serve as fighters. In 2016, the group split into two. As Boko Haram’s attacks grew more and more
violent, this group, the Islamic State West Africa (ISWA), started offering protection
to villages in danger. They also provided stability and even water
supplies to a region collapsing under a food crisis, in exchange for a tax and recruits. In the absence of a strong central government
— they’ve moved further into Nigeria and Niger where they’ve launched attacks of their
own and are officially affiliated with the Islamic
State. Exploiting and terrorizing locals in ungoverned areas has become a successful strategy, keeping these militant groups active. But it doesn’t stop here. The strategy is being used by terrorists all across the continent. Lake Chad is part of the Sahel; a narrow band of territory that stretches across north-central
Africa. The conditions that make Lake Chad ideal for
Boko Haram and ISWA extend across this whole region. The population is mostly Muslim and vulnerable. Ethnic conflicts are rampant. Food is scarce. Poverty is rife. And most importantly, there’s almost no
presence of a government . Islamist militant groups have been filling
these spaces at a staggering pace. 7 years ago Islamist militant groups took over
northern Mali and declared it a caliphate for 10 months before a French military intervention
drove them back into the desert. Today, they’ve banded together and are affiliated
with al-Qaeda. A group called ISGS broke away and is now
affiliated with the Islamic State. This part of Mali remains ungoverned and violent
7 years after the intervention. Both of these groups are fighting for various
militias in the conflict. Meanwhile, both are also attacking foreigners,
including the French Embassy in 2018 and the 2017 ambush of US Special
Forces in Niger. Fox News is learning that 12 US soldiers, mostly Green Berets, were ambushed by a larger force of ISIS-linked militants. Islamist militant groups are finding success
in other ungoverned spaces as well. ISIS claims to have launched 10 attacks in
2018 in Libya, where a civil war has raged since 2011. In Somalia, an ISIS-affiliated group split
from al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda group. It’s made this whole part of Africa one of the
most dangerous places in the world. The US and France have both stepped up their
presence with several military bases across the Sahel. But drone strikes and Special forces alone
are not the solution to the Islamist terrorism in Africa. As long as there are places with poverty,
conflicts, and no government terrorists groups will be here. will be here.

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