African insurgencies linked to Al Qaeda and Islamic State


Al Qaeda and Islamic State are gradually establishing connections with several militancy and insurgency groups in sub-Saharan Africa as well as Pakistan-backed militancy groups in Kashmir. Recently a top commander of an Al Qaeda affiliated group was killed in gun battle in Kashmir. According to Indian police sources, Imtiyaz Ahmed Shah, the head of Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind was gunned down with one of his key associated neat south Kashmir Tral town – 50 kilometers from the main city of Srinagar in India. Shah’s killing is a major breakthrough against the franchisee of Al Qaeda that already has established connections with militancy and terrorist outfits in Kashmir.

According to information, the Kashmir Al Qaeda affiliate came into existence in 2017 when notorious militant leader Zakir Musa split from the largest militant group named Hizbul Mujahideen. Musa founded the Ansar Gazwat-ul-Hind in July 2017.

Meanwhile, violence attributed to radical Islamic groups have dramatically increased in sub-Saharan Africa over the past decade, and continues to infect new venues where it has been absent. In the recent attacks on Palma in northern Mozambique, Islamic State (ISIS) is claiming responsibility. In another instance, in Sahel and the Horn of Africa, Al Qaeda and its affiliated groups make the claim.

According to analysts, a Faustian bargain between ISIS or Al Qaeda and insurgencies that are driven by local grievances associated with corrupt governments that have marginalized those far from the national capital. The essence of the bargain is that ISIS and Al Qaeda are able to demonstrate their prowess despite reverses in the Middle East – valuable for recruitment and fundraising. For locally based insurgencies, ties, no matter how tenuous, enhance their prestige and win international publicity.

The extent to which these bargains translate into tactical, strategic, or financial partnerships with ISIS or al-Qaeda varies from one insurrection to another. However, for both sides of the bargain, incentives are to exaggerate its importance. Insofar as Western policy makers associate ISIS and al-Qaeda with the insurrection, the prestige and therefore the power of both grows. However, perceiving local insurgencies as primarily an aspect of international terrorism, rather than as a response to local grievances, can lead to policy mistakes recalling some made in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. After all, ISIS and al-Qaeda are core Western security concerns, while local African insurgencies are not.

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