You cannot Target the Tail of an Animal When the Body and Direction of the Head has not been Discovered – Africa Proverb
As continuous hardline military pressure mounts on ISIL in Iraq and Syria by US & Russia coalition forces and others of course, key trends of global terrorism in 2017 may likely slide further towards Africa despite efforts by regional bodies including the Multinational Joint Task force (Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon , Benin) to destabilise groups like Boko Haram- AQIM and Al- Shabaab within their region. In upcoming 2017, the Sahel region of North Africa , West Africa and East Africa are most likely to experience severe balloon effect with Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP – Boko Haram) , Islamic State of East Africa Province (ISEAP Al- Shabaab) & ISIL in Libya – Sirte gaining more strength if their core groups in Iraq and Syria eventually loose hold on their acclaimed Caliphate. Vulnerable states like Mali, Senegal and Mauritania could become boiling points through the likes of AQIM, AL- Mourabitoun and Anser Dine exerting their influence within the enclave to create confusion and further despair in the already fragile region. As we end 2016 to approach 2017, we examine what lies ahead for Global terrorism as a link network with increase adaptability.
- A key trend in 2017 is the likelihood of increased practical collaboration between ISIL and Al- Qaeda in Africa. The need to raise funds for sustenance , train militants , share intelligence and exchange fighters could override obvious strategic differences. As culture and porous borders are essential factors in this region, these terrorist groups will have to collaborate to withstand the CT heat.There is increased distrust between states anti and counterterrorism strategies, added with the doctrine of national sovereignty , a gap that will exist for some time. In the coming months, ISIS and AQ could find it more strategic to practically collaborate in Africa and exploit that weakness than they did in Iraq and Syria where they are currently loosing space.
- ‘Boko Haram’ currently has three key factions under the leaderships of Abubakar Shekau, Mamman Nur and Abu Musab Habib Al Barnawi. These factions could remain visible and engaging for some years to come despite the enormous damages caused by internal splits later this year after Shekau was replaced by Abu Musab as leader of ISWAP. In East Africa Alshabaab with militants linked to ISIL and Alqaeda (AQIM) may remain the most visible and deadly terrorists groups within the region. Al Murabitoun of Mokhtar Belmokhtar’s which claimed responsibility for the recent Mali and Burkina Faso hotel attacks is a group to keep an eye on after it split from AQIM.
- As with events in 2016, the most common targets will remain soft and crowded areas – airports, stadia, Market places/malls , hotels ( mostly those attracting western visitors ) restaurants , places of worship, Cinemas, and other social gatherings. Hard targets including police stations, army barracks, critical infrastructures could occasionally be targeted for strategic reasons rather than to cause massive casualties.
- Suicide bombing using improvised explosive devices-IEDs – and vehicular Improvised explosive devices- VIEDs – is the most common tactics along side occasional weapon assault on unsuspecting hard targets. As with a possible increase in cyber attacks, there is a likelihood of terrorist using chemical or biological weapons if they become really desperate.
- As group attacks become less effective due to easy detection and disruption, Lone individuals, young and vulnerable women are most likely to be used for suicide bombings although young men are equally at high risks. There are no particular known profiles for suicide bombers to look out for, but recently – young women have been over used by terrorists groups like Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria, Northern Cameroon , Niger , Chad, Mali….In North and East Africa however, there is a possibility of increase group attacks against hard targets due to the difficult terrain which prevents disruption efforts by security forces.
- Most terrorist recruiters explore both online and offline methods depending on the target and the environment. Despite increase efforts in combating online and offline radicalisation and recruitment strategies by , most terrorist groups or designated individuals in Africa, will primarily continue to engage in offline face to face recruitment strategies exploiting local push and pull factors depending on the subject in question. The use of online is evidently true in Western settings however there is a move towards hybrid strategies for hard to get specialist recruits. The traditional method of by ‘hook or by crook’ recruitment strategies will continue unabated in the coming years within the Africa region due to sociological and systemic challenges.
- Nigeria, Cameroon , Libya , Senegal, Niger , Chad, Mali, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda, CAR, South Sudan , Sudan , … will remain the most affected and fragile zones for Salafist jihadist terrorism and civil strife in 2017 . Other vulnerable states include Ghana, Gambia, Burundi,…
2017 calls for a real concerted effort to address the menace of global terrorism by promoting the design and implementation of local strategies that will empower all nations here and beyond with equal capacity to withstand the pressures of insecurity from within and without. Trust must be established by all forces for peace for the common good to mankind. A balloon effect is not a sustainable strategy as it will revert back to its original position when the pressure is mounted on the other side however long it takes.
- For full details of 2017 trends above including terrorist Finances, media and propaganda strategies and consultation on practical counter terrorism measures please contact us via email correspondence
David Otto Institutional Representative of SECINDEF (Security Intelligence and Defense) Israel-USA International Consulting Counterterrorism in the United Kingdom and collaborating analyst of OCATRY (Observatory against the Terrorist Threat and the Jihadist Radicalization) David Otto is the Director of TGS Intelligence Consultants Ltd and the Preventing Radicalisation and Violent Extremism Programme – Step In Step Out (SISO) – based in the United Kingdom. He is also Senior Counter Terrorism Advisor for Global Risk International.