These are violent attacks recorded in Africa in the first 5 months of 2018. Many are by groups fighting in the ongoing civil wars in South Sudan and the Central African Republic. Others are riots against governments in southeastern Africa. But these are different. They’re attacks Islamist militant groups. Some claim to be branches of the Islamic State.

While others claim to be al-Qaeda; Both groups are usually associated with the Middle East. But for the past decade, Islamist militant groups have been spreading across Africa, where they've continued to find places to organize and launch attacks. Their success has pushed these fragile states into deeper turmoil and it's made the region one of the most dangerous in the world. To understand how these terrorist groups got to Africa and why they’re so successful there, it helps to start in Nigeria. Nigeria has the biggest population and economy in Africa. Wealth, industry, and major cities are mostly in the south. While the north is poor, marginalized, isolated, and home to most of Nigeria’s Muslim population. It was here that a radical Islamist group called Boko Haram took shape and turned violent in 2009.

They started razing villages, slaughtered men and women, and kidnapped children who were forced to carry out suicide attacks. The Nigerian government cracked down, but the group continued to grow. In 2014, they got international attention when they kidnapped close to 300 school girls in Chibok. Bring our girls back! 276 are out. By then, they controlled a huge swath of territory in northern Nigeria where they imposed strict Sharia law and declared it an Islamic caliphate.

In 2015 they became affiliated with the Islamic State, which had a caliphate of its own in Iraq and Syria. Within a few years, the group killed nearly 25,000 people, and was on track to become the deadliest terror group in the world, eventually surpassing ISIS. 5 African countries backed by the US, UK, and France formed a task force to battle Boko Haram. By April 2015 they'd liberated major towns and seemed to push Boko Haram out. But three years later, Boko Haram is still active. The group had shifted its focus to the Lake Chad region, one of the poorest places in the world. The lake touches the borders of Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon , but none of the state governments have any real presence here. This is where Boko Haram is operating. They’ve been raiding local villages for food and capturing men to serve as fighters.

In 2016, the group split into two. As Boko Haram’s attacks grew more and more violent, this group, the Islamic State West Africa (ISWA), started offering protection to villages in danger. They also provided stability and even water supplies to a region collapsing under a food crisis, in exchange for a tax and recruits. In the absence of a strong central government -- they’ve moved further into Nigeria and Niger where they've launched attacks of their own and are officially affiliated with the Islamic State. Exploiting and terrorizing locals in ungoverned areas has become a successful strategy, keeping these militant groups active. But it doesn't stop here.

The strategy is being used by terrorists all across the continent. Lake Chad is part of the Sahel; a narrow band of territory that stretches across north-central Africa. The conditions that make Lake Chad ideal for Boko Haram and ISWA extend across this whole region. The population is mostly Muslim and vulnerable. Ethnic conflicts are rampant. Food is scarce. Poverty is rife.

And most importantly, there’s almost no presence of a government . Islamist militant groups have been filling these spaces at a staggering pace. 7 years ago Islamist militant groups took over northern Mali and declared it a caliphate for 10 months before a French military intervention drove them back into the desert. Today, they’ve banded together and are affiliated with al-Qaeda. A group called ISGS broke away and is now affiliated with the Islamic State.

This part of Mali remains ungoverned and violent 7 years after the intervention. Both of these groups are fighting for various militias in the conflict. Meanwhile, both are also attacking foreigners, including the French Embassy in 2018 and the 2017 ambush of US Special Forces in Niger. Fox News is learning that 12 US soldiers, mostly Green Berets, were ambushed by a larger force of ISIS-linked militants. Islamist militant groups are finding success in other ungoverned spaces as well. ISIS claims to have launched 10 attacks in 2018 in Libya, where a civil war has raged since 2011.

In Somalia, an ISIS-affiliated group split from al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda group. It’s made this whole part of Africa one of the most dangerous places in the world. The US and France have both stepped up their presence with several military bases across the Sahel. But drone strikes and Special forces alone are not the solution to the Islamist terrorism in Africa. As long as there are places with poverty, conflicts, and no government terrorists groups will be here. will be here.


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