ISIS in Africa

- October 22, 2021
Can the spread of religious extremism be stopped?
Photo of people mourning the deaths of 43 farm workers killed on November 20, 2020, in northeastern Nigeria by Boko Haram. (AFP/Getty Images/Audu Marte)
After major setbacks in Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State (ISIS) is attempting a comeback in Africa. Some 6,000 fighters have established nine ISIS cells operating in the Sahel region, the Horn of Africa, central Africa and, most recently, the continent's southeastern Swahili Coast. Insurgents are capturing strategic territories by forming temporary alliances with ethnic militias, conscripting child soldiers and using anti-government propaganda to recruit followers — especially among Africa's large population of unemployed and disaffected youths.

Some experts say the violence in West Africa's desert regions could spread to the more stable coastal countries, creating “a domino effect” of insecurity that could cause a surge of new migrant flows heading north into Europe. Do you agree? If so, what would halt this cycle?

Despite military interventions by African and overseas countries, militant groups such as al Shabab and Boko Haram have been terrorizing the Horn of Africa and northern Nigeria for decades — even before the appearance of ISIS in those areas. Why do you think those groups have been able to operate for so long?

2001–2009ISIS splits off from Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).
2013–PresentJihadist groups in Africa pledge allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS).

Can the tactics used to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria work in Africa?


Olajumoke (Jumo) Ayandele
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Center for the Study of Africa and the African Diaspora; Nonresident Fellow, Center for Global Affairs, New York University.


Laura N. Bell
Assistant Professor of Political Science, West Texas A&M University.


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