© GRAPHIC NEWS
Al Qaeda and IS seek control of the Sahel
April 30, 2019 -- Countries spanning the vast Sahara and Sahel region face terrorist groups seeking to establish an Islamic caliphate across West Africa.
Feeding off rampant poverty, corruption and the inefficiency of local militaries in securing borders, Al Qaeda and so-called Islamic State (IS) are gaining strength across the Sahel and Sahara.
Local groups, which have sworn allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, are merging, including some affiliated with Al Qaeda, and turning the area into a concentration point for terrorism, conflict and criminality, human trafficking, drugs and arms smuggling.
Mali and its immediate neighbours, Burkina Faso and Niger, are home to multiple affiliates of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Islamic State of the Greater Sahara (ISGS) and Al Mourabitoun. These groups count thousands of fighters between them.
Niger is at the heart of international counter-terrorism strategies for the region, with the French-led Operation Barkhane deploying MQ-9 Reaper drones near the capital, Niamey. In addition to this drone base, France has a second base at Madama near the Libyan border and gets support from Germany, Romania and Italy. The U.S. is also building a $110m base -- Air Base 201 -- for armed Reapers just south of Agadez.
A second conflict zone comprises Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon, which is battling Boko Haram, a group that sympathises with Al Qaeda, and a splinter group -- Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).
- ISIS in the Greater Sahara (The Soufan Centre)
- Islamic State claims several ISGS attacks across the Sahel (Long War Journal)
- Boko Haram’s Backyard: The Ongoing Battle in Cameroon (The Jamestown Foundation)
- State Affiliates (Combating Terror Center)
- U.S. Military Presence and Activity in Africa: Sahel Region (Africa Faith and Justice Network)