Africa accounts for almost half of world's terrorist acts, says UN official

Counter-terrorism committee leader says ISIS and other groups are 'exploiting political instability and expanding radius of influence'

A soldier from the French Army monitors a rural area during the Bourgou IV operation in northern Burkina Faso, along the border with Mali and Niger, on November 10, 2019. - This is the first time that the French Army, the national armies and the multinational force of the G5 Sahel (Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Mauritania and Chad) have officially worked together in the field.
The mission of the 1,400 soldiers of this Bourgou IV operation (including 600 of the 4,500 French soldiers of the Barkhane force): to restore authority in a remote area where no army has set foot in more than a year, leaving the field open to jihadists. (Photo by MICHELE CATTANI / AFP)
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The African continent now accounts for almost half of terrorist acts worldwide, with central Sahel suffering about 25 per cent, a senior UN official said on Thursday.

“Daesh [ISIS] and its affiliates are becoming more ingrained in parts of the African continent,” Natalia Gherman, executive director of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, told the UN Security Council.

“They are exploiting the political instability and expanding their radius of influence, their operations and territorial control in the Sahel, with growing concerns for coastal West Africa.”

Vladimir Voronkov, UN undersecretary general for counter-terrorism, told council members that the situation in the region has deteriorated and is becoming increasingly complex.

Local ethnic and regional disputes are conflating with the agenda and operations of these groups, Mr Voronkov said.

“Daesh affiliates continued to operate with increasingly more autonomy from the Daesh core,” he said.

“Should this trend of greater autonomy persist, the report alerts to the risk that a vast area of instability may emerge, from Mali to the borders of Nigeria."

Mr Voronkov was referring to the biannual report from UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who previously described Africa as the “global epicentre” of terrorism.

The UN report, which was published at the end of January, said that although ISIS and its affiliates continue to face leadership attrition and financial setbacks, they have retained their capacity to conduct attacks and project a threat beyond their areas of operation.

It also indicated that ISIS's resources have continued to decline, with available reserves in the range of $10 million to $25 million, down from $25 million to $50 million in the previous reporting period.

While the group’s main means for financial transactions remain traditional methods such as cash couriers and informal “hawala” transfer systems, an increase in the use of cryptocurrencies has been observed.

Interpol Secretary General Jürgen Stock said the international police organization is working closely with UN counter-terrorism officials on a project to help law enforcement “identify and prevent the exploitation for terrorists purposes of enablers such as encryption services, video distribution tools and new propaganda platforms.”

Updated: February 16, 2024, 4:39 AM