After suffering defeat in parts of Asia, the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant ( ISIS) has shifted its focus to Africa and Nigeria is now the most active hub for its attacks worldwide, according new report by Jihad analytics.
So far in 2022, ISIS, otherwise known as Islamic state, ISIL, or Daesh has claimed more attacks in Nigeria than anywhere in the world, according to the report , and for the first time in the Islamic State’s history, Iraq is no longer the place where it has the most activity.
An analysis of the statistics show that 73 percent of ISIS global attacks have been in Africa, with Nigeria, where the Islamic State of the West Africa Province (ISWAP) operates, accounting for 61 percent of attacks on the continent. Basically, of all the 15 countries where ISIS has claimed attacks this year, 9 are in Africa.
“Since the beginning of the year, the Islamic State has conducted half of its attacks in #Africa. For the first time in the history of the jihadi group, Iraq is no longer the country where ISIS claims the highest number of operations: the group ISWAP is now more active in Nigeria,” @Jihad-analytics tweeted.
Total number of claimed ISIS attacks in Nigeria increased sharply from 47 in February to 56 in March alone, according to credible sources. On the global stage, attacks in Nigeria account for 45 percent of all ISIS attacks. In the month of March, the list of countries targeted most frequently was led by Nigeria with 41 percent, followed by Iraq with 21 percent, Afghanistan and Pakistan at 10 percent, and Syria at 7 percent, according to Flashpoint Intelligence. In Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo accounted for 7 percent, Egypt and Mali 3 percent, and Mozambique 2 percent.
Mallamfatori, a town in Borno state topped the list of specific locations most frequently targeted. Others are Damboa, Sabon Gari all in Northern Nigeria followed by the Iraqi town of Daquq.
Despite increasing attention to the plight of the town of Mallamfatori in far northeastern Nigeria, the area continues to be reportedly battered by ISIS-affiliated fighters. For the period of March 2022, ISIS claimed at least 12 separate attacks in or around Mallamfatori —five more than last month—and more than any other municipal location worldwide in March, according to reports from Flash point Intelligence.
Since May 2021, ISIS has claimed at least 50 separate attacks in¹ Mallamfatori, including IEDs, artillery and rocket barrage&z, armed clashed and even suicide bombing.
Overall, 96 percent of claimed ISIS
attacks in Nigeria for the period March 2022 were in Borno State, and 43 percent of claimed ISIS attacks in Nigeria during March 2022 consisted primarily of IED ambushes, making it the most common form of attack, Flashpoint intelligence noted.
While Nigeria is witnessing increasing attacks, claimed attacks by ISIS is decreasing in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, its former strong hold. Attacks decreased by more than 50 percent since January. All attempts by ISIS to take over its strongholds in Syria is failing . Available records show that only 10 ISIS attacks were recorded in Syria during the entire month of March, which accounts for half of what ISIS claimed last month—and the lowest number of monthly attacks in Syria since October 2021.
Nigerian Government neglect warning on ISIS attacks
The United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) had repeatedly warned that ISIS is expanding operations in Africa, especially Nigeria, but the Nigerian government failed to take deliberate action, as reports shows that the terrorists group is gaining ground.
In 2018, the AFRICOM commander of US special operations in Africa, Maj. Gen. Marcus Hicks in 2018 warned that the Islamic state and Al-Qaeda were expanding at a concerning level in tbe continent especially the West African region. In 2020 , General Stephen Townsend, current commander of the US AFRICOM, again raised the same concern, adding that these terrorists were expanding silently without trying to draw attention to themselves in Nigeria and other parts of the region.
The commander issued the warning many more times and urged the Nigerian authorities and other governments to take action to stop the plans of these terrorists.
Also, the under-Secretary-General of the UN office of counter-terrorism, Vladimir Voronkov told the Security Council on February that the terrorist activities were gaining ground in the West Africa, which he noted continued at what he described as an unsettling pace.
According to him, the terrorist activities is intensifying in Nigeria, and urged the government and other countries to use every tool at their disposal to sustain important gains made against the group. He said the need for both military counter-terrorism operations and more comprehensive measures with a focus on prevention.
Greg Kelley of World Mission also warned that the ISWAP, appears well on its way to building a caliphate. “I think that’s absolutely the agenda,” he had said. According to him, government’s negligence is paving the way for a terrorist stronghold.
In response to these threats, the Nigerian military authorities had said it was taking all neccessary action and leaving nothing to chance. The then Director, Defence Media Operations (DMO) Major General John Enenche assured Nigerians that the Armed Forces is taking the warning of the United States of America African Command (US AFRICOM) on the infiltration of the Islamic State in Syria (ISIS) and Al Qaeda in parts of the country, saying that the nation’s “security agencies are ahead of this evolving security challenge.”
“sequel to the warning by US AFRICOM that extremists have begun deploying several strategies to silently re-establish themselves across some regions in Africa including the West Africa sub-region, the Armed Forces of Nigeria and all the relevant security agencies is leaving nothing to chance,” he told a news conference.
“Consequently, actions in place in this regard are being reviewed to handle this all-important intelligence appropriately. I am directed to assure the general public that this is not a one-off but continuous effort as it were to ensure that the security agencies are ahead of this evolving security challenge,” he added.
Nigeria in a dangerous state – experts
Despite assurances by the military authorities, data shows that attacks from these terrorists groups have only increased. Freedom Onuoha, a security analysts warned that Nigeria is currently in a dangerous state and all security operatives must urgently intensify operations to understand the nature of this expansion and respond appropriately.
According to Onuoha, these terrorists have continued to grow, both in number and attacks due to poor governance, porous borders as they explore these loopholes to bring in weapons and fighters. He warned that they are committed and ready to expand even further.
“As the heat increases on them in Syria, they are looking for safe havens where they can regroup, re-strategize and continue to launch attacks. The presence of a faction ISWAP which has also demonstrated its ability to carry out attacks becomes more alluring for them. They just want to hold on to what’s existing rather than establish something that is new. ISWAP Has recorded some success both in recruitment, radicalisation and attacks. It therefore becomes very attractive for them to relocate to west Africa,” he added.
The exploits being recorded by these groups particularly the issue of their expansion as far as going deep North east in Taraba state and then coming North Central in Nigeria state should be a serious warning for the Nigerian government that these groups are forward-looking and very committed to expanding,” he further said.
The analyst however enthused that the recent acquisition of air assets such as the super Tucano is apt, and must be effectively deployed to deal with the terrorists. He added, “What we need to do now is to integrate in a more synergistic way, both the land and air operations; and more importantly is that we need to consolidate our intelligence and security networks to begin to clearly understand the trend and pattern of this expansion, particularly the issue of their recruitment drive.
“The military can only fight them strongly when they have a base, but when they try to operate in a more dispersed, then there is a need to increase our capacity for intelligence gathering, which means therefore that there is a lot of role for the DSS and other law enforcement institutions to increase their intelligence tentacle to reach far deep into their enclaves where these groups are gradually expanding. It’s not too late for Nigeria, but we are in a dangerous state, which means all hands must be on deck to deny them the potentials for expanding aggressively and excessively,” Onuoha said.
In the same vein Eric Bishen , director, Safeguarding Security Sector Stockpiles (S4) Initiative Eric Bishen noted that one Islamic state have become more active largely due to the presence of the ISWAP faction which and been launching attacks for many years.
Bishen, in an interview with Global Sentinel said to Contingent-owned equipment (COE) loss is a major factor fuelling non-state attacks. This, according to him, is a situation where terrorists overrun military bases to steal Lethal and non-lethal material to launch attacks.
Meanwhile, Military Authorities was not available to respond to the matter.
Rise and fall of ISIS in Asia
At its height, ISIS held about a third of Syria and 40 percent of Iraq. By December 2017 it had lost 95 percent of its territory, including its two biggest properties, Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, and the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, its nominal capital. The following is a timeline of the rise, spread and fall of the Islamic State, according to Wikipedia.
ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh – emerged from the remnants of al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), a local offshoot of al Qaeda founded by Abu Musab al Zarqawi in 2004. It faded into obscurity for several years after the surge of U.S. troops to Iraq in 2007. But it began to re-emerge in 2011. Over the next few years, it took advantage of growing instability in Iraq and Syria to carry out attacks and bolster its ranks.
By December 2017, the ISIS caliphate had lost 95 percent of its territory, including its two biggest properties, Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, and the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, its nominal capital.
On December 19, 2018, President Donald Trump declared that ISIS was defeated and signalled his intention to withdraw all 2,000 U.S. troops supporting the SDF in Syria. But the SDF continued its offensive and in February 2019 launched the final siege on ISIS forces in Baghouz, the last holdout. Baghouz fell on March 23, 2019, formally ending the caliphate’s claim to any territory.
The mass surrender of ISIS fighters and their families illustrated the lingering challenge: how to deal with jihadists to forestall its transformation into an insurgency in Iraq and Syria. The Baghdadi era of ISIS ended on October 26, 2019, when the leader was killed in a U.S. raid in northern Syria.