Islamist militancy at high levels in the Sahel

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A 50% spike in fatalities linked to militant Islamist groups in the Sahel and Somalia over the past year eclipsed the previous high in 2015 when Boko Haram was at its most lethal phase, according to the Africa Centre for Strategic Studies (ACSS).

It notes fatalities linked to militant Islamist groups reached 22 288 over the past 12 months in a July mid-year review of violence involving African militant Islamist groups.  This is a 48% increase from the previous year’s 15 024 fatalities. “This level of fatalities is roughly two and a half times more than the pace experienced a decade ago and higher than the record 20 562 in 2015, mostly driven by Boko Haram’s lethal use of violence.”

“Eighty percent of fatalities and events were and are in the Sahel and Somalia, which saw spikes in annual militant Islamist-linked deaths of 39 and 157%, respectively. The Sahel continues to be the region experiencing the most violent events (2 912) and fatalities (9 818).

“Significant drops in militant Islamist violence in North Africa and northern Mozambique helped moderate the continental increase in violent events, which rose four percent. Nonetheless Africa experienced an almost fourfold increase in reported violent events linked to militant Islamist groups over the past decade, from 1 812 events in 2014 to 6 756 events in 2023. Almost half of that growth was in the last three years,” the ACSS said.

“Battles,” the ACSS report states, “accounted for a growing share of fatalities linked to militant Islamist groups in recent years”.

In 2023, over 66% of reported fatalities (14 867) were linked to battles — the highest percentage in the past decade. Much of this can be attributed to the growing intensity of clashes in Somalia, which saw a 235% increase in battle related fatalities over the past year, resulting in a reported 6 199 deaths

Turning to the Sahel, ACSS said there was a doubling of violent events involving militant Islamist groups since 2021, which now total 2 912. The Sahel also experienced “a near tripling” in fatalities linked to violence in the same timeframe to 9 818 deaths.