Al-Qaeda in the Sahel: 12 Month Outlook

Summary

Al-Qaeda (AQ) and its affiliates Jama’at Nusratul Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM) and the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) have continued to seek dominance in the Sahel. A region that is becoming the battleground for terrorist organisations. In recent weeks, AQ and its affiliates have carried out a series of attacks against both government and civilian targets. The battle in the Sahel is taking place between AQ and Islamic State Sahel Province (ISSP). Each group seeks to be the dominant organisation in the region. 

The battle for the Sahel has meant that it has become the hotbed of terrorist activity on the planet. As a result it has taken that title away from central Asia and Afghanistan and Iraq. The Sahel region of Africa now accounts for 48% of the world’s terrorist activity.

Key Judgement 1: It is highly likely that Al-Qaeda in the Sahel and its affiliates will continue to attack both civilian and government targets over the next 12 months. 

  • On the 19th of June 2022, the group killed over 130 civilians in an AQ attack in Mali. One of the largest massacres in the region. (source)

  • In addition, attacks against civilians by AQ and its affiliates are occurring almost daily. The latest attack came on the 4th of July 2022 in Burkina Faso. (source)

  • In April, they killed five soldiers from the Benin National Army. In an attack in the Pendjari National Park in northern Benin (source). Attacks on government targets continued in June in Benin. When AQ killed two police officers in an attack in Cotonou, Benin. (source)

  • Consequently, since the start of 2022, AQ and ISSP have killed over 2000 civilians in terrorist raids and attacks in the Sahel region. (source)

Key Judgement 2: It is highly likely that AQ will come into conflict with the Wagner group in the next 12 months. 

  • In December 2021, the junta in Mali turned to Russia and its PMC the Wagner Group to help sure up security in the region with the growing threat from terrorist organisations such as AQ. (source)

  • Furthermore, in April 2022, JNIM claimed to have captured a mercenary from the Wagner group. Demonstrating that the Wagner Group is coming into direct contact with AQ and its affiliates. (source)

  • The conflict between the Malian junta, supported by the Wagner group against AQ and other terrorist organisations has caused an influx of refugees into neighbouring Mauritania. Therefore, demonstrating the human cost of the Wagner Groups’ involvement in this war. (source)

Key Judgement 3: It is highly likely that the withdrawal of the Takuba Task Force will embolden Al-Qaeda in the Sahel as they seek to solidify their position as the dominant terrorist organisation in the Sahel. 

  • On the 1st of July 2022, the Takuba Task Force led by France officially stopped operating in Mali. Bringing an end to France’s decade-long military operation in the country. (source)

  • Moreover, the failure of the Takuba Task Force to successfully defeat AQ and its affiliates in the region with its heavy military focus will is seen as a success by AQ. (source)

  • The withdrawal of the Takuba Task Force from Mali because of a political falling out will stall the counterterrorism efforts in the country and will breathe new life into AQ and its affiliates in the region as they no longer face a major powers military might. (source)

Intelligence cut-off Date: 5th of July 2022.

Bobby Payne
Bobby Payne
Bobby has ten years experience in contracts management and business ownership. He is an alumni of the University of East Anglia where he studied history, focussing on Spanish colonisation. He is currently studying MA Intelligence and Security Studies at Brunel University. His research focus is on terrorism and geopolitics.

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