Terrorist breeding grounds in Africa
The spread of religious extremism in Europe is fostered not only by the continuing armed conflicts in the Middle East and Africa but also by the fact that there are still countries where the government lacks control of part or most of its territory, such as Somalia. What makes such countries a source of danger is the combination of religious extremism, international crime and terrorism. In such countries, terrorists skilfully exploit the region’s endemic problems and ethnic conflicts by recruiting members from within vulnerable communities.
Following the departure of international security forces, radicals operating in the Sahel may start planning attacks in Europe.
The Sahel continues to be a significant breeding ground for terrorism. The crisis in Mali has escalated into a regional conflict, extending to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger. Under French leadership and with the support of international security forces, including the Estonian Defence Forces, there has been a successful effort to curtail the general capabilities of regional terrorist groups with ties to Al-Qaeda and IS, prevent a significant expansion of the Islamic radicals’ operating area, and limit the increase of the migration flow stemming from the deteriorating security conditions and the movement of radicals to Europe. With the departure of the international security forces, which will provide terrorists with increased freedom of action, radicals operating in the Sahel may start planning attacks outside the region, including in Europe.
The IS branch in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), active in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, has already shown the potential to incite radicals to carry out attacks in Europe. The branch’s activities have been presented as a success story in IS propaganda, with ISGS offensive operations praised and fighters encouraged to carry out attacks on France and its allies, who they claim are leading a “Christian operation” in the Sahel. The radical who attacked police officers in Colombes near Paris on 27 April 2020 under IS’s instructions had sworn allegiance to the head of ISGS, Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, and sought to use his terrorist attack to draw attention to the need to establish Sharia law around the world.
In the province of Cabo Delgado, Mozambique, at least 3,000 people have been killed in attacks, and some 800,000 people have been forced to flee since 2017 due to intensified activities by extremist groups with links to IS. Although Mozambique has recently made progress in counter-terrorism thanks to the contributions of other countries, Islamic extremists are still able to recruit fighters from outside Mozambique – from other countries and refugee camps in the region – thus threatening the territory of neighbouring Tanzania.