Why Africa Could Provide an 'ISIS Renaissance'


Nov 15, 2017

Somali fighters belonging to Ahlusunah warjama, a moderate sect fighting against the hardline Al-Shabaab insurgents, display weapons during a parade in Mogadishu, July 31, 2010

Somali fighters belonging to Ahlusunah warjama, a moderate sect fighting against the hardline Al-Shabaab insurgents, during a parade in Mogadishu, July 31, 2010

Photo by Omar Faruk/Reuters

This commentary originally appeared on The National Interest on November 14, 2017.

In October, Iraqi, Syrian and coalition forces celebrated the fall of Raqqa, one of the most important and final areas of control for ISIS. While ISIS will likely continue as a danger to the West, there is also a threat that the terrorist-insurgency group could move from the Middle East and set up a new base in Africa.

ISIS has been one of the most formidable and well-organized terrorist groups in history. It would be naive to assume that ISIS will simply cease operations in the face of recent losses. A more likely scenario is that the group, along with its many followers, will attempt to disperse to a new base.

In October 2017, Somalia experienced a horrific terrorist attack in its capital Mogadishu carried out by al-Shabaab, a terrorist group affiliated with Al Qaeda. Somalia is one of many countries in Africa afflicted by civil unrest, poor governance, racial and religious tensions and poverty. As its presence in Iraq and Syria has shown, these are the conditions where ISIS thrives, making parts of Africa fertile breeding grounds for terrorism.

Public awareness in Western countries of current terrorist activities in Africa remains low, which could allow the group time to regroup in the continent. In fact, this could be a case of history repeating itself. Back in 2013, many Western populations seemed to be unaware of the presence of ISIS and its involvement in Syria and Iraq.

Indeed, the parallels between the more fragile parts of present day Africa and the early days of the Syrian crisis are alarmingly similar. In 2014, ISIS took advantage of civil unrest and government corruption to establish a foothold within Syria. It successfully competed against several terrorist groups in the region, including Jabhat al-Nusra. Its aim was to eliminate them and split from Al Qaeda in 2013.…

The remainder of this commentary is available at nationalinterest.org.

Antonia Ward is an analyst in the Defence, Security and Infrastructure team at RAND Europe. Her research interests include counterterrorism, countering violent extremism, intelligence and cybersecurity.

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