John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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Showing posts for "Islamic State"

The Future of Islamic State Operations in Africa

by John Campbell
A fighter of Libyan forces allied with the U.N.-backed government aims his weapon as he takes up position inside a ruined house at the front line of fighting with Islamic State militants in Ghiza Bahriya district in Sirte, Libya, November 9, 2016. (Reuters/Ismail Zitouny)

As the self-proclaimed Islamic State loses ground in Syria and Iraq, there is increasing concern that it will gradually shift its operations to Africa. Indeed, in late 2016, Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Bagdhadi claimed that the group had shifted elements of command, media, and wealth to Islamic State “provinces in north Africa and west Africa.” However, in a useful article Joseph Siegle of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies convincingly argues that the Islamic State is not well established in those areas of Sub-Saharan Africa where extremist Islamist groups operate. The two most violent groups, Boko Haram and al-Shabaab, predate the formation of the Islamic State and are not dependent on it for operational or tactical support. Furthermore, it is the Wahhabism of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states that is the major ideological foundation of radical, Jihadi Islam in sub-Saharan Africa, rather than the Islamic State. Read more »

Boko Haram’s Factional Feud

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
Nigerian soldiers hold up a Boko Haram flag that they had seized in the recently retaken town of Damasak, Nigeria, March 18, 2015. (Reuters/Emmanuel Braun)

This is a guest post by Jacob Zenn. Jacob is a fellow of African affairs at The Jamestown Foundation in Washington DC.

Since Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau pledged allegiance to self-proclaimed Islamic State’s leader Abubakar al-Baghdadi in March 2015, Boko Haram has been known as the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP). From that pledge until August 8, 2016, the formerly bombastic Shekau had not been seen publicly. During this period, Shekau and his former rival for Boko Haram leadership, Mamman Nur, appear to have been locked in a factional feud, with the two of them sending audios behind-the-scenes condemning one another. Nevertheless, until August 3 the Islamic State recognized Shekau as the “wali,” or governor, of ISWAP. Read more »

The Surge of Insurgency/Terrorism in Recent Times: Social and Economic Consequences

by John Campbell
The flag of Nigeria is carried by Maryam Usman as the team enters the stadium during the opening ceremony for the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow, Scotland, July 23, 2014. (Reuters/Jim Young)

The following text is the entirety of John Campbell’s speech delivered at the Nigeria Summit on National Security held by the Council on African Security and Development in Abuja, Nigeria, on May 25, 2016. 

Thank you for your warm introduction. It is a pleasure to be at this important conference, to see old friends, make new ones, and to be back in Nigeria. Read more »

Don’t Give Up on AMISOM Yet

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeepers from Burundi patrol after fighting between insurgents and government soldiers erupted on the outskirts of Mogadishu, on May 22, 2012. (Reuters/Feisal Omar)

This is a guest post by Alex Dick-Godfrey, Assistant Director, Studies administration for the Council on Foreign Relations Studies Program.

Later this year, Somalia looks to continue its recent progress by holding a successful parliamentary election. The election provides an opportunity to improve governance in the country and could illustrate the improvement Somalia has made to the donor community, international businesses, and the world. But, enormous pitfalls remain, and Somalia’s partners, including the United States, have expressed concerns about the process. This election could prove to be disastrous and set Somalia back if not handled correctly. To cope with these pitfalls, Somalia is forced to rely on an already strained African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) to secure this election, but international support appears to be waning for the African Union (AU) force. The AU should reaffirm its commitment to Somalia and implore member and donor nations to not give up on AMISOM, and Somalia, yet. Read more »

Boko Haram Tied to the Self-Proclaimed Islamic State

by John Campbell
Libyan soldiers man a checkpoint in Wadi Bey, west of the Islamic State-held city of Sirte, February 23, 2016. (Reuters/Ismail Zitouny)

Especially after Boko Haram “face” Abubakar Shekau’s March 2015, pledge of allegiance to the self-proclaimed Islamic State, there has been speculation that the two movements are drawing closer together. However, there has up to now been little evidence of tactical or strategic cooperation. That could be changing. Read more »

Into Africa: The Islamic State’s Online Strategy and Violent Extremism in Africa

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
A youth launches Twitter social media application on a tablet in Cairo, Egypt, January 24, 2016. (Reuters/Stringer)

This is a guest post by David P. Fidler. He is an Adjunct Senior Fellow for Cybersecurity at the Council on Foreign Relations and a professor of law at Indiana University. He blogs regularly at Net Politics. Read more »

Major Nigerian Terrorist Arrested

by John Campbell
Nigerian special forces conduct a mock casualty evacuation during Flintlock 2015, an American-led military exercise, in Mao, February 22, 2015. (Reuters/Emmanuel Braun)

The Nigerian Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, and a spokesman for the Nigerian army announced on April 3 the capture and arrest of Khalid al-Barnawi, the leader of Ansaru (“Vanguard for the Protection of Muslims in Black Lands”), a splinter group of Boko Haram. (The confirmation by Lai Mohammed makes the capture claim credible.) Ansaru has carried out a campaign of high-profile targeted assassinations and has kidnapped foreigners, especially Europeans. Read more »

Nigerian Muslim Views on Suicide Bombing

by John Campbell
Smoke is seen after an suicide bomb explosion in Gombe, Nigeria on February 1, 2015. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

Historically, there has been no West African tradition of martyrdom by suicide. Suicide, in fact, continues usually to be viewed as anathema. Nigeria’s first case of suicide bombing occurred only five years ago, in 2011. Since then, it has become associated with Boko Haram, the radical, Islamist movement that seeks to destroy the secular government in Nigeria. Read more »

Caution Required About New Video from Boko Haram’s Shekau

by John Campbell
A screenshot from the video most recently credited to Abubakar Shekau of Boko Haram, March 24, 2016.

Abubakar Shekau has been the face of Boko Haram, the radical Islamist terrorist movement associated with the killing of more than twenty thousand in northern Nigeria since 2009. The group is responsible for about two hundred deaths thus far in 2016, and more than two million internally displaced persons. In the past Shekau regularly issued videos, many of which featured grisly scenes of beheadings and other violence against Nigerian security service and other official personnel. Some of the videos were long. Shekau usually spoke in Hausa and Arabic, and occasionally in English. Then he went silent and his videos were replaced by no one. His last video appeared in March 2015 when he pledged allegiance to the so-called Islamic State. In August 2015 he (or someone) issued a brief audio recording, though it was unclear where or when it was made. However, on March 24, 2016 he allegedly issued a video, seven minutes in length, also in Hausa and Arabic. Read more »

Nigerian Popular Support for Boko Haram

by John Campbell
People gather at the cattle market in Maiduguri, Nigeria March 9, 2016. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

One of the many unknowns about Boko Haram, the radical Islamist terrorist movement associated with over 150 killings thus far in 2016, is how much popular support it actually enjoys. It is counterintuitive to witness popular support for a movement that brags about (and films) its grisly beheadings, makes use of female and child suicide bombers, and has contributed to some three million internally displaced persons in Nigeria and hundreds of thousands of refugees in adjacent countries. On the other hand, in its current iteration it has been active for five years, shows tactical flexibility, and kidnaps hundreds of women and girls. The more than two hundred Chibok school girls kidnapped in 2014 have never been accounted for, indicating that the movement has some logistical support structures that can feed, clothe, and house them. Read more »