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Setbacks and Realignments: The Continuing Evolution of Militant Islamist Groups in Africa

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A review of violent events involving militant Islamist groups in Africa over the past year reveals several notable observations:

  • The number of fatalities resulting from militant Islamist group activity in Africa has declined in the first half of 2017, continuing a downward trend since 2015.
    • The two most lethal groups, Al Shabaab and Boko Haram, have seen a combined 29 percent drop in fatalities related to them in the first 6 months of 2017.
    • Still, the two groups have accounted for 3,178 fatalities in 2017.
    • Al Shabaab continues to be most lethal militant Islamist group in Africa with 1,831 fatalities linked to its activities in the first half of 2017.
  • ISIS continues to face challenges in establishing itself in Africa.
    • After losing its primary stronghold on the continent in Libya’s coastal city of Sirte in late 2016, ISIS has been linked to only 18 incidents in Libya during the first half of 2017—a sharp drop from the 152 events observed in the first half of 2016.
    • ISIS activity in the Sahel and northeastern Nigeria remains marginal.
    • Egyptian-based Ansar Beit al Maqdis (ABM), which declared allegiance to ISIS in 2014, has shown increased activity in 2017, however.
  • The overall trajectory of militant Islamist group activity in Africa is mixed, reflecting the importance of local factors affecting each context. A breakdown of these groups’ activity shows:
Decreasing

  • In Libya, overall militant Islamist group activity declined from 212 events in the first half of 2016 to 55 in 2017.
  • Boko Haram was involved in 258 violent events in the first half of 2016 compared to 229 in 2017.
Increasing

  • Al Shabaab involvement in violent episodes increased from 563 in the first half of 2016 to 610 in 2017.
  • ABM has been involved in 125 events in 2017 compared to 47 in the first half of 2016.
  • JNIM—Jama’at Nusrat al Islam wal Muslimin—has been involved in 36 events in 2017 compared to 21 in the first half of 2016, when its constituent members operated separately.

This is a quarterly update of a map tracking militant Islamic group activity in Africa as compiled by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies. It reflects events that occurred between July 2016 and June 2017.

Credit|The Africa Center for Strategic Studies


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