ISIS Central Africa is seeking to consolidate its presence within the continent, starting from the Congo, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda, where it has exploited alliances with armed groups and the fragile security vacuum that exists in that region.
Western Uganda massacre
ISIS carried out a massacre in western Uganda on Sunday, June 17, as more than 40 people, most of them students, were reported killed in an attack on a school in a town near the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The authorities recovered the bodies of 41 people, including 38 students, who were burned, shot or beaten to death after rebels attacked a secondary school on Friday night, and they also kidnapped at least six people. Uganda blamed the massacre at Lhubiriha secondary school in the border town of Mpondwe on the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a group that has launched attacks from bases in the restive east of Congo for years.
The real start of ISIS in Africa began during the time of late ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who focused on Africa to announce the establishment of what he called the Central Africa Province to lead the organization’s operations in the center, east and south of the continent.
Indeed, ISIS launched attacks in the Congo, Mozambique and Tanzania, and its elements took control of strategic coastal cities and villages, killing hundreds of citizens and displacing hundreds of thousands in Mozambique.
A report by the Soufan Center stated that “the organization of the Central Africa Province in Mozambique includes foreign militants, but there are no clear indications of the presence of Arab elements who came from the strongholds of ISIS in the Middle East.”
“The majority of the Central Africa Province’s members are foreigners who speak Swahili and come from all over East Africa, including Kenya and Tanzania, and possibly also Uganda and Comoros,” it added.
Although the pro-ISIS media promotes the Central Africa Province as a single organization, it is in reality divided into two separate groups.
The Allied Democratic Forces have been active in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo since the 1990s, and the organization is currently led by Seka Musa Baluku.
In early 2017 and mid-2018, the authorities allocated funds transferred to the financial coordinator of ISIS, Waleed Ahmed Zein, who was arrested in Kenya in July 2018, in favor of the Allied Democratic Forces.
The ADF has its means and methods of obtaining funding for its activities through illegal logging, gold extraction and ivory trade, as well as a network of taxis and motorbikes that operate between local towns in the Congo.
The group, which declared its allegiance to ISIS via a video clip in October 2017, launched brutal and violent attacks in North Kivu and Ituri provinces in eastern Congo against citizens and army forces, killing more than 849 civilians in 2020 alone, according to United Nations reports.
Ansar al-Sunna, known as Al-Shabaab, declared its allegiance to ISIS in April 2018, but the organization did not recognize it as an affiliate group until August 2019. It is currently led by Abu Yasir Hassan.
Since October 2017, the group has killed more than 1,300 civilians, and some estimates even indicate that more than 2,300 civilians and military personnel have been killed since the terrorist organization launched its violent rebellion in the country.
Ansar al-Sunna committed a number of massacres, the most prominent of which was a horrific massacre in November 2020, considered the largest of its kind in the country, when its members massacred 50 civilians in the stadium of the village of Moatize in northern Mozambique.
Mohamed al-Sharqawi, a researcher specializing in violent groups and crisis areas, said that the terrorist attack carried out by the Allied Democratic Forces, an arm of ISIS, heralds a series of other operations within the framework of the organization’s plan to reposition itself in East and Central Africa.
In an exclusive statement to the Reference, he confirmed that the ferocity with which the recent terrorist operation was carried out comes as part of a wave of terrorism in the region beginning this month.
Sharqawi noted that ISIS issued a call a few days ago to Muslims in Ethiopia, taking advantage of the clash that occurred due to operations to demolish mosques within urban development projects and taking advantage of the ethnic and religious conflicts that most countries in the East African region suffer from. On January 23, the Allied Democratic Forces carried out an attack on a church in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, killing 11 people and wounding dozens.
He explained that the ADF is originally a Ugandan group currently operating in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, consisting of more than 120 extremist groups, which began its activities in 1995 after an agreement between the Ugandan Tablighi Jamaat and the Uganda National Liberation Army to fight against the Ugandan government during that time, after It received training and support from Sudan.
He reported that with the announcement of ISIS’s presence in Central Africa in April 2019, it was joined by groups of militias called Madina at Tauheed Wau Mujahedeen (City of Monotheism and Holy Warriors), which carried out terrorist attacks across the North Kivu and Ituri provinces in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo under the leadership of Seka Musa Baluku.
Sharqawi added that the organization is greatly expanding in eastern Congo, especially after the military operation it carried out in mid-2022 in Butembo, in which nearly 800 prisoners escaped, not to mention other terrorist attacks in the second half of last year.