The United Nations Security Council published its latest report on the activities of Sunni Extremist Groups on January 20, 2020 (click here for full report) Some of the information released regarding Africa is chilling.
By Scott Morgan
Member states reported several key facts regarding the actions of Militant Groups in Eastern and the Great Lakes Region of Africa. Some of the member states reported the following details. Airstrikes conducted by the United States against Al-Shabaab in Somalia has resulted in the deaths of at least 400 fighters over the last two years. The group has placed pressure on local clans in Somalia to recruit new fighters. After being presented with these data points the reason for the attack on the Manda Bay facility become more clear.
There is some interesting new information that links a small IS cell in Somalia to recent Militant activity in both the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and what has been occurring in northern Mozambique as well. Currently it is rare that in a 24 hour period that we don’t learn of an attack taking place in either country. Collectively these areas of operations are known ISCAP (Islamic State West African Province).
Now for the details. The branch operating in the Eastern DRC is the ADF (Allied Democratic Forces). This group initially began in Uganda but has used the region as a base of operations for years. We should assume that this group has supplanted M23, The FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) as the current threat to the Congolese State.
In Mozambique which has only been an area of concern since November 2017 the players appear to be murkier. The Group Ansar al Sunna was officially added to ISCAP sometime in late 2019. The group launched an online presence by sharing video of militant attacks that have taken place not only in Mozambique but also in Somalia and in the DRC. This effort has been seen by many analysts as a key step in the unification of these three areas of operations.
One question that will be asked concerns the number of fighters that this united effort has available to launch operations in this vast area. The UN report stated that ISCAP has an estimated 2,000 men under arms. The fighters are a mix of local fighters from the DRC and Mozambique plus foreign fighters from Chad, Burundi, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Somalia.
The report omits one major concern. There is confirmation that the attacks in both Mozambique and the DRC are coordinated. Some of these efforts are planned and coordinated in Somalia and others in the DRC. But one key omission is the role of Tanzania in the facilitation of these attacks. If ISCAP has the ability to coordinate attacks then we should assume they have the ability to shift fighters from one country to another.
Geography shows that if they move between countries then the fighters have to traverse through Tanzania. There has been concern regarding the threat to Tanzania from the militants currently active in Mozambique. What is not known is what steps the country has taken to mitigate the threat.
Clearly this is a situation that will have to be scrutinized and monitored.