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21 Jun, 2023 18:53

Islamic State a growing threat in Africa – Russian counterterrorism chief

The influx of foreign terrorist fighters poses a major risk in regions where the state is weakening, says Igor Sirotkin
Islamic State a growing threat in Africa – Russian counterterrorism chief

Russia’s counterterrorism chief has cautioned of the dangers of the terrorist Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) reincarnating as an “African caliphate.”

Speaking at a high-level UN conference of the heads of counter-terrorism agencies on Tuesday, Igor Sirotkin, deputy director of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and head of the National Anti-Terrorism Committee, said that sub-Saharan Africa, particularly the Maghreb and Sahel regions, is becoming a hotbed of terrorism.   

The Maghreb region of North Africa includes Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia, while Sahel encompasses Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Cameroon, and Nigeria, with Mauritania being part of both. 

Sirotkin told the UN session that “armed terrorist groups are expanding their influence” in these areas. “We see the danger of IS being reincarnated as an African caliphate,” he added, as reported by AFP. 

At Tuesday’s panel on assessing current and emerging terrorist trends and threats, experts declared Africa the epicenter of global terrorism, with sub-Saharan Africa accounting for half of the casualties in the past year, while emphasizing that al-Qaeda and IS affiliates remain active and prevalent in other parts of the world. 

“Africa has emerged as the key battleground for terrorism, with a major increase in the number of active groups operating on the continent,” UN Assistant Secretary-General Khaled Khiari is quoted by AFP as saying. 

Khiari said several areas of the continent, ranging from Burkina Faso and the Sahel to Chad and Sudan, continue to suffer as a result of the flow of weapons and foreign fighters from Libya. 

ISIS-Democratic Republic of Congo (ISIS-DRC), also known locally as the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), has been accused of carrying out numerous attacks targeting civilians in remote areas of eastern Congo in recent years. 

Earlier this year, the rebel group reportedly claimed responsibility for assaults in the DRC. At least 23 people were killed in a January attack in the village of Makugwe in the North Kivu province. It is also accused of planting a bomb in a church in Kasindi, killing at least 14 people and injuring dozens more. 

Last weekend, Ugandan police reported that the ADF carried out a deadly attack on a school in Mpondwe, near the Congo border that left at least 41 dead, the majority of whom were schoolchildren.