The self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) has recently launched an aggressive propaganda campaign highlighting the importance of the African continent in the IS's global vision. The June 16 issue of its weekly al-Naba newsletter (Issue 343) featured an editorial titled “Africa: land of Hijra and Jihad” in which the author applauded IS militants in Africa, especially in West Africa, for their battlefield success, attributing it to their commitment to religion and determination to fight.
The editorial says that Islamic State turns the mill of war in the direction that the guiding book and helping sword turn. According to IS, the militants in Africa have continued their journey on two paths: the path of calling people toward religion and of fighting the armies of enemy nations.
“What we see today in Africa is exactly what we saw a few years back in Iraq and Sham,” the author wrote. While mentioning the mobilization of 75 crisis-stricken countries by the United States to fight IS in Africa, the editorial says that, despite the enemy military campaigns against its fighters, there has been a great deal of progress in the field of war, daw'ah, media, and administration in the region.
The editorial ends with the group calling upon Muslims from all over the world to make hijra to the region.
Since 2014, militant groups in Africa have been pledging allegiance to the Islamic State. Over time, this trend resulted in the emergence of various IS provinces, including Libya, Algeria, Egypt (Sinai Peninsula), West Africa (Lake Chad), the Sahel, Somalia, Mozambique, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In May 2022, the Global Coalition to Defeat Dāʿesh held its first-ever ministerial meeting on the African continent, signaling the “need to meet the evolving threat” in Africa as a primary concern for the multinational coalition.
Islamic State Pushes African Recruitment in Video Releases
On July 15th, ISWAP released a video titled “A Book that guides and a Sword that helps.” The video began with the group paying tribute to the slain militants (including commanders).
This was followed by visuals of various attacks and combat videos of assaults on Nigerian soldiers. The footage locations include Bula Yobe, Katarko, and Gajiram. The dead bodies of Nigerian soldiers and torched buildings are also visible along with a clip of a suicide bombing on a Nigerian military convoy near Mallam Fatori.
The second part of the video indicates that ISWAP has established Sharīʿah in the areas controlled by the group. Clips of individuals being whipped and a person being stoned are displayed. ISWAP members can be seen giving religious instructions to locals, including children, and organizing religious events.
The message that the group was trying to deliver is that no matter the size of the territory it holds, as soon it gains control over the area, establishing Sharīʿah is the priority. The video also shows the Hisbah (religious police) destroying forbidden objects. ISWAP members can be seen distributing currency as charity.
ISWAP accuses the Taliban of being apostates for not enforcing Sharīʿah despite their control over Afghanistan. Various collaborators and spies have also been executed by ISWAP.
The video culminates and concludes with an ISWAP fighter calling for Muslims to immigrate to IS-held territory in West Africa.
Then, carrying on with its focus on Africa, IS-Syria Province released a propaganda video (5:40-minutes-long) on June 23rd, showing its militants in Syria paying tributes to the fighters in Africa for their recent “victories” and urging them to carry out more attacks.
Subsequently, IS-Iraq Province released a video (5:24-minutes-long) on June 27th, showering tributes to their counterparts in Africa and once again calling on Muslims to head to IS-held areas across the continent.
Since the beginning of 2022, the Islamic State has conducted half of its claimed global operations in Africa. In the first four months of 2022, the Islamic State claimed more attacks in Nigeria than in Iraq.
As a result, Africa has emerged as a center of gravity for the Islamic State.
Great piece Vineet! Africa is indeed the centre of gravity for ISIS now and we ignore it at our peril. Just like we did for AQ in Afghanistan 40 years ago.