A state of unrest has gripped the index of terrorist activities carried out by extremist organizations in Africa during September 2023. The beginning of the month differed significantly from its conclusion, as the early days witnessed a decrease in operations, while the final ten days saw a surge in the threat indicators of escalating activities conducted by various violent and terrorist groups across the continent.
Notably, the Somali-based al-Shabaab movement, actively exploiting the African Union mission’s withdrawal, has been at the forefront, alongside scattered attacks launched by terrorist organizations seeking to extend their control westward and confront some armed militias.
Relatively Decreased Incidents
According to a study conducted by the Al-Azhar Observatory for Countering Extremism, September 2023 recorded a relatively decreased number of terrorist incidents compared to August of the same year, with a 3.1% decrease.
In September, a total of 31 terrorist incidents occurred, resulting in 757 fatalities, 120 injuries, and 9 abductions. In contrast, August saw 32 terrorist incidents, leading to 219 fatalities, 74 injuries, and 55 abductions.
Despite the decrease in the number of terrorist incidents last month, the number of victims exceeded that recorded in August of the same year. This could be described as a reduction in the frequency of incidents alongside an increase in their lethality.
The study explained that these attacks were more deadly, particularly explosive attacks. Notably, a significant number of these attacks targeted gatherings or crowded places, as exemplified by al-Shabaab’s assault on a local market in the Hiran region of Somalia during the last Friday of the month.
East Africa Takes the Lead
According to statistics, East Africa was in the lead in terms of the number of incidents and casualties. It witnessed 16 terrorist incidents, accounting for more than half of the total terrorist operations conducted in Africa during the month, at 51.6%.
These attacks resulted in 534 fatalities and 88 injuries. Somalia itself experienced 13 terrorist incidents, including five bombings, leading to 518 fatalities and 70 injuries. Meanwhile, Kenya faced three terrorist incidents, resulting in 16 deaths and 18 injuries.
The study emphasized that the conflict between the Somali government forces and the al-Shabaab terrorist movement is in a state of heightened alertness. The conflict is characterized by active fighting against the movement, with the support of armed tribal militias and African Union mission forces.
At times, the conflict subsides, but what is occurring can be described as a war between unequal forces in terms of organization, tactics, and the ability to remain on the battlefield. The problem lies in the government’s lack of a mechanism to implement the comprehensive war strategy declared against the most powerful and organized force in East Africa.
Additionally, West Africa ranked second in terms of the number of incidents and casualties. During September, the region witnessed 13 terrorist attacks, which accounted for 41.9% of the total number of terrorist operations. These attacks led to the death of 204 people and the injury of 32.
Mali, in particular, suffered seven terrorist incidents, resulting in 77 deaths and 10 injuries, while Burkina Faso experienced four incidents, causing six deaths and 10 injuries. Niger, on the other hand, fell victim to two terrorist attacks, resulting in 45 deaths and 12 injuries.
The study attributed this to the political crises and intertwined security tensions in the Sahel region due to the proliferation of cross-border armed groups and organized criminal gangs. Some countries have engaged in confrontations to access resources, natural wealth, exert control, and influence.
The observatory reiterated its warning about the dangerous deterioration of security conditions and political instability in some Sahel countries, which may expose other nations previously shielded from terrorist threats.
Unusual Calm in Central Africa
Notably, Central Africa witnessed no terrorist attacks during this month, as reported by official and trusted media sources. Nevertheless, a leader of the “Allied Democratic Forces,” affiliated with the terrorist organization ISIS, was killed during a joint operation by the Congolese army with Ugandan military support. This development can be seen as a strong barrier against extremist organizations in Central Africa.
Regarding counter-terrorism efforts, the number of terrorists killed during September 2023 across Africa reached 913, with 473 arrests and 2 surrenders. In East Africa, the Somali government eliminated 557 al-Shabaab fighters and arrested 2. In addition, 6 terrorists were arrested by the Guinean army.
In the Sahel region, Malian security forces eliminated 6 terrorists, while Burkina Faso neutralized 17 and arrested 9. In West Africa, the Nigerian military’s efforts resulted in the neutralization of 179 terrorists and the arrest of 456 others.
In light of these developments, it is clear that the fight against terrorism in Africa remains a complex and evolving challenge, with regions experiencing varying degrees of security threats. Vigilance, cooperation, and the development of comprehensive counter-terrorism strategies are vital to address this issue effectively.