Between January 1, 2021, and November 1, 2021, the actions of 8 terrorist organizations in Africa came to the fore, and these organizations carried out terrorist attacks in 12 different countries in total. The countries targeted in the attacks were Burkina Faso, Chad, Cameroon, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Egypt, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, Mozambique, and Sudan. The fact that many terrorist organizations are active in the region shows that the region is an area of ​​active conflict. As can be seen on the map, it can be inferred that terrorist organizations have crossed the borders of the country and formed a terror belt, especially in the region where Niger, Nigeria, Mali, and Burkina Faso are located. While 88.1% of the attacks took place in rural areas, 11.5% took place in urban areas. 0.3% was classified as unknown. [1] It is seen that the countries of the region have difficulties in providing security in rural areas and that terrorist organizations have more mobility and operational capabilities in rural areas.

Map: Overall Attacks in Africa (Red Areas: Rural, Blue Areas: Urban and Black Areas: Unknown)

During the specified term, the TAP database recorded 1516 terrorist attacks that took place in Africa. Al-Shabaab terrorist organization operating in Somalia and Kenya carried out 65% of these attacks. Again, 64% of these attacks occurred in Somalia. After Somalia, the most targeted countries were Cameroon and Burkina Faso, respectively. [2]

Between January 1, 2021, and November 1, 2021, 57% of the 2635 attacks recorded in the TAP database occurred in the African region. [3] In other words, one out of every two attacks occurred in the African region. These attacks, which took place in the aforementioned region, reveal that Africa is the region most damaged by terrorism on a global scale.

In this process, when the attacks that took place in the above-mentioned countries in Africa were examined, it was determined that the most attacks were carried out in February with 233 attacks. In the region, where an average of 150.6 attacks occurs per month, the least number of attacks is observed in September with 87 attacks.[4] It can be said that seasonal transitions have an important place in the increase and decrease of attacks since most of the attacks take place around the Horn of Africa.

Graphic: Periodic Distribution of Attacks by Organizations

It has been determined that the terrorist organization al-Shabaab is the most active terrorist organization in the region. The fact that the organization has carried out an average of 98 attacks per month is evidence that it is the most active terrorist organization in the region. Al-Shabaab carried out its attacks mostly in Somalia and Kenya. Considering the attacks carried out by the organization and the intensity of these attacks, especially in Somalia, al-Shabaab will continue to threaten regional security and occupy the country's agenda for a long time. The capital Mogadishu and its surroundings have become the main target of the organization. The attack carried out by the organization on July 27, 2021, in the Galmudug region of Somalia, in which at least 30 people lost their lives and more than 50 people were injured, was recorded as one of the bloodiest attacks of 2021.[5]

Map: Geographical Distribution of Attacks in Somalia

The closest organization to al-Shabaab in terms of the number of attacks was Boko Haram with 149 attacks. Boko Haram carried out these attacks in Niger, Nigeria, and Cameroon. [6] The bomb attack in the Borno region of Nigeria, which killed at least 10 people, was one of the bloodiest attacks carried out by Boko Haram in 2021. [7] Apart from this, Boko Haram continued its traditional attack technique, kidnapping. The organization, which kidnapped 42 people in the Kaduna region of Nigeria on February 17, 2021, also executed one person in the attack. [8]

During this period, DAESH's west African branch carried out 138 attacks under the name of Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) and 24 under the name of Islamic State Greater Sahara (ISGS). These attacks were carried out in Burkina Faso, Chad, Cameroon, Mali, Niger, Nigeria. Nusrat al-Islam, more commonly known as JNIM, carried out 120 attacks in the region during this period. These attacks took place in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger. DAESH carried out 80 attacks in Africa, 68 of them in Egypt. The Dan Na Ambassagou organization, which is active in Mali, carried out 10 attacks in the country. Al-Qaeda Maghreb (AQIM) had 1 attack in this process.[9]

Graphic: Proportional Distribution of Attacks by Organizations

When we look at the organizations that carried out attacks in the region, it is seen that all other organizations except Dan Na Ambassagou are radical jihadist organizations. It is also seen that Islamic fundamentalist ideas are widespread in the region and organizations terrorize these ideas. The Dan Na Ambassagou organization, on the other hand, carries out its attacks with the claim of protecting people with Dogon ethnic identity. African local religions are common in this ethnic group, as are Muslims among the Dogon.[10]

Table: Country/s Targeted by Organization

OrganizationTarget Countries
Boko HaramNiger, Nigeria, Cameroon
Dan Na AmbassagouMali
al-ShaababSomalia, Kenya
ISEgypt, Somalia, Sudan
ISGSBurkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Nigeria
ISWAPBurkina Faso, Chad, Cameroon, Mali, Niger, Nigeria
JNIMBurkina Faso, Mali, Niger

Compiled by the author.

Graphic: Distribution of Attacks in Africa by Attack Types

Considering the typology of attacks in the region, 30.4% of the attacks are armed reactions, 15.7% are raids, and 13.8% are IED attacks. These types of attacks are followed by assassination with 9% and kidnapping with 6.8%.[11] Unlike other areas of attack, the type of kidnapping attack is used as a very common and effective form of attack in Africa. A total of 410 people were abducted within the specified date range, which means that an average of 41 people per month were abducted by terrorist organizations. When the statistics on this attack type are examined, it is seen that July is the month in which this attack type is used the most. July, when 75 people were kidnapped, is followed by February, when 60 people were kidnapped. The types of kidnapping and execution attacks correspond to a total of 132 attacks in the region. Compared to global data, 48% of these attack types occurred in the African region.[12] The ongoing civil wars are the most important reason for the abduction of individuals under the age of 18 in Africa. Both rebel forces and governments legitimize this method. It is alleged that these abducted individuals were employed as servants, porters, messengers, and general camp followers. Regardless of gender, these individuals under the age of 18 join forces to fulfill their armed combat duties.[13]

Graphic: Comparison of Kidnapping and Execution Attacks

As can be seen from the chart below, the attacks of terrorist organizations active in Africa decreased in August. There were 1044 attacks in the first two quarters of the year. After 190 attacks in July, a dramatic decrease is observed in the number of attacks in September. While the highest loss of life was recorded in April with 207 casualties in these attacks, the month with the least loss of life was September with 88. In these ten months, a total of 1508 people lost their lives due to terrorist attacks, while at least 744 people were injured and became victims of terrorism. In this process, an average of 150.8 deaths per month in the African region, while an average of 74.4 people were injured in these attacks. [14]

Graphic: Casualty Analysis

Tactical/Operational Military Units have been the primary target of terrorist organizations in the attacks that took place in the region. 56.3% of all attacks targeted military units. Another target type targeted by terrorist organizations in their actions was civilians with 29.4%. These two elements were the target of 85.7% of all attacks, 1298 attacks in total.[15]

Graphic: Distribution of Attacks in Africa by Attack Target Types


Considering the terrorist incidents in the African region and the dominant terrorist elements within the specified term, it is seen that there will not be a decrease in terrorist activities in the region soon. Terrorist groups in the region (especially Al-Shabaab and ISWAP) are trying to show with their current attacks that they have the military equipment and manpower to compete with the state elements in the region, and they do not allow an environment of trust and stability in the region soon. The attacks intensifying in West Africa and the Horn of Africa affect the current economic situation of these countries with the military investments made or to be made with security concerns. Behind the organizations being so active lies the fact that the states remain idle in showing the necessary reaction or that they do not have the capacity (manpower, equipment, external support, etc.) to show the necessary reaction. Considering the scope of the terrorist activities in the African region and the losses experienced, it seems very difficult for the said countries to neutralize these organizations without any external support. Although foreign investments for Africa have been accepted as a very important and promising reality in the recent period, the region needs foreign support not only in economic terms but also in military terms.

AFRICAAcceleratingAl-ShabaabMilitary Units, CiviliansSomaliaLack of political and social stability after Somalia's 2006-2009 war with EthiopiaJihadist violence likely to spread across the region
The spillover effect of jihadist violenceAl-Shabaab's development of its military operational capacity and effective use of guerrilla tactics
Poverty and useless economic policiesBorder insecurity and blurring of borders (Kenya-Somalia)
Dysfunctional political system 

Compiled by the author.

[1] Terrorism Analysis Platform (TAP), 

[2] Terrorism Analysis Platform (TAP), 

[3]Terrorism Analysis Platform (TAP), 

[4]Terrorism Analysis Platform (TAP), 

[5] At least 30 killed in al Shabaab attack in Somalia - security official.

[6]Terrorism Analysis Platform (TAP), 

[7] 10 Killed in Suspected Boko Haram Attack in Nigeria.

[8] Gunmen kill student, kidnap 42 in attack on Nigerian school.

[9] Terrorism Analysis Platform (TAP), 

[10] For more information on the belief system of the Dogon tribe, see Brosch, Noah. (2008). Sirius Matters. Springer. 

[11]Terrorism Analysis Platform (TAP), 

[12]Terrorism Analysis Platform (TAP), 

[13] Abduction In Modern Africa.

[14]Terrorism Analysis Platform (TAP), 

[15]Terrorism Analysis Platform(TAP), 

*The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints, and editorial policies of the Terrorism Analysis Platform. 

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