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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – Africa was occupied jihad violenceand the US will have to pay close attention to it, observers warn.
On Sunday, a US airstrike killed two al-Shabaab terrorists in retaliation for an attack on US partner forces in Somalia.
“Islamic jihad in Africa is real,” Jasmine Opperman, a South African security consultant who specializes in extremism and political violence, believes that Africa has moved from the Middle East to the main area of operations for jihadists.
“It definitely is,” Opperman told Fox News Digital. “If you look at the history of Africa, I enter Somalia, Mali and the West Africa region, Somalia, the East Africa region, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mozambique, we see that Al-Qaeda has always been an entrenched presence in Africa. We see a favorable environment for these international terrorist groups find yourself, fit in and lead extremist activities in all these regions.”
Earlier this month, Nigeria’s most heavily guarded prison was taken over by jihadists, although Nigerian Interior Minister Rauf Aregbesola said Kuje prison is a world-class facility and “the most fortified in the country.”
However, a Nigerian army platoon “with the latest weapons” was no match when the Islamist jihadist movement decided to release more than 60 terrorists imprisoned there. The jihadists came to the prison, located in the capital, Abuja, in three waves, attacking the facility for more than two hours with more than 300 fighters, some firing rocket launchers, one unit intended to blow up the prison walls, and another group took up defensive positions in the nearby streets. to prevent the army from sending reinforcements.
Christopher Holton, director of the State Security Policy Outreach Center, told Fox News Digital that the US needs to pay close attention to what is happening in Africa.
“Historically, when jihadists were given asylum, they simply used it as a base for operations to spread jihad elsewhere. The 11 September al-Qaeda attacks from Afghanistan and the 1998 East African embassy bombings in Sudan are instructive. “
Holton concluded that “two of the deadliest jihadist groups in the world operate exclusively in Africa: Boko Haram and Al Shabab.”
in East Africa, jihadist group al-Shabaabset up 15 years ago in already turbulent Somalia set the stage for a jihadist revolution with their spectacular attacks on the US airbase at Mandla Bay, Kenya; the capture of a Kenyan army camp that killed 200 people; an attack on a Kenyan college campus that killed 148 people; the deadly siege of the Westgate shopping center in Nairobi, Kenya, where at least 67 people were killed; and huge bomb explosions the size of World War II in Mogadishu, Somalia.
In May, President Biden reversed President Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from Somalia and bring back about 500 people after an upsurge in al-Shabaab activity.
“The decision to re-establish a permanent presence was made to maximize the safety and effectiveness of our forces and enable them to provide more effective support to our partners,” the US Homeland Security official said. Spetsnaz members are said to be primarily advisors. However, the US is known to use drones to fight jihadist leaders domestically, although it is not known if drones fly long distances from the US base in Djibouti.
Opperman believes that the huge increase in Islamist militancy across the continent is due to common factors – weak governance and often rural communities that have been neglected by the government and have lost confidence in the system that should protect them.
The jihadist group Boko Haram attracted international attention when its members kidnapped 276 schoolgirls in Chibok, northeastern Nigeria, in 2014.
Over 2 million people fled their homes to escape Boko Haram in Nigeria alone, according to the UN, nearly 800,000 more people have been displaced to the neighboring countries of Cameroon, Chad and Niger. Those captured were forced to convert to Islam, and the women were often turned into sex slaves.
However, things are changing for this jihadist group. Boko Haram is not the same as we saw it a few years ago,” Opperman says. “Many militants have crossed into the Islamic State West Africa (ISWAP) province and we are now seeing ISWAP reaching even the Abuja area, the capital of Nigeria. This geographic extension to Abuja remains a challenge. “
As soon as the Nigerian authorities catch jihadist militants, a significant part of them return to duty as their colleagues. There have been 15 prison breaks in the past seven years, resulting in 7,000 prisoners escaping.
A little further north in Niger, France’s new foreign minister, Catherine Colonna, and defense minister Sébastien Lecornu have reportedly signed a new agreement that sees French troops withdraw from Mali and 1,000 of them establish a base in Niger equipped with fighter jets, drones and helicopters. Up to 400 more troops will be involved in special operations on the border between Burkina Faso and Mali, and another 700 to 1,000 troops will be based in Chad. All of them in this Sahel region will continue to oppose both the Islamic State and Jihadists associated with al-Qaeda who made this place the most dangerous peacekeeping point in the world.
The troops of Paris have been in Mali, a former French colony, for nine years. However, their redeployment comes after an almost doubling of violence in the Sahel in 2021, from 1,180 to 2005 incidents. ReliefWeb says it was the most significant change in any of the theaters of Islamist violence in Africa over the past year.
More than 2.7 million people have been displaced from their homes in the Sahel, according to the UN, and at least 13.4 million are in dire need of humanitarian assistance.
With reports of Russian mercenaries now operating in Mali, Opperman is concerned that the US, already present in the area with drones and special forces, will be embroiled here in a confrontation with Moscow: “We are currently seeing tensions between France and Russia. ,” says Opperman. “France is leaving and Russia is trying to come in. And that leaves the question of whether we will see some expansion of the United States in the region.”
Jihadists on the rise in Mozambique. Another group, also known as al-Shabaab, has warned South Africa to withdraw its troops from Mozambique or they will attack the neighboring country less than 1,500 miles from the conflict. Jasmine Opperman believes the question is when the jihadists will attack Johannesburg, not whether they will attack them:
“The border of the country is not a stumbling block for terrorists,” concludes Opperman: “Global expansion, extremist jihadist ideology requires them to ever push the boundaries beyond what they believe will eventually lead to a new world order. and a new caliphate.