Terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria [ISIS], or Daesh, may be expanding its tentacles to the shores of eastern Africa, two years after it was declared defeated in its original territory.
A group of 83 countries, known as the Global Coalition Against Daesh, said on Tuesday the emerging sympathisers for ISIS in Africa pose a new challenge in combating counter-terrorism.
After a virtual meeting on Tuesday, the Coalition, which includes the US, the UK, France, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti and several countries in the Gulf, said they must “remain firmly united in our outrage at Daesh/ISIS’s atrocities and in our determination to eliminate this global threat.”
Iraq’s authorities announced in 2019 that ISIS had been defeated after years of pursuit by a coalition led by the US. However, on the second anniversary of the victory, ministers and representatives from the 83 countries said they were concerned with the latest violence by Daesh in Iraq, Syria and offshoots in Africa such as Mozambique.
“We have removed key Daesh leaders, and continue to pursue those remaining to prevent their resurgence and bring them to justice,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at the virtual meeting.
“The global coalition remains united in its determination to see this enemy destroyed and will continue its efforts against the group in Iraq, Syria, and other countries. The US is firmly committed to the global coalition and to the lasting defeat of Daesh.”
On Monday, fighters under the ISIS-affiliated Al-Shabaab group in Mozambique claimed an attack on the gas-rich northern city of Palma in which 50 people were killed. The group said it has taken control of most parts of the town.
The Coalition said the number of attacks claimed by ISIS in Africa have risen by nearly 30 percent over the past one year, including kidnappings in Lake Chad, suicide attacks in Somalia and beheading of children in Mozambique.
Earlier in March, UK Charity Group Save the Children accused Mozambican insurgents, al-Shabaab, of killing children by beheading them. The group shares a name with Somali militants but have had no association. The Mozambican militants have pledged allegiance to ISIS, same as some factions of Somalia’s al-Shabaab.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told the conference that only continued collaboration among countries will achieve an “enduring defeat” for ISIS across the globe.
When ISIS was declared defeated in 2019, it meant it was no longer controlling a territory of eight million people in Iraq and Syria. The scars of the war and the sprouting groups across the world mean the threat is still on, ministers said.
“The UK is supporting partner forces confronting Daesh in Iraq and Syria, stabilising liberated communities, building institutions so that terrorists face justice, and leading efforts against its twisted propaganda,” Raab said at the virtual meeting he co-hosted.
The ministers said the terrorist group and affiliates have been able to “rebuild its networks and capabilities to target security forces and civilians” and that Daesh was now a “serious and growing threat” in West Africa and the Sahel, and an emerging threat in East Africa.
Also in the meeting was Jens Stoltenberg, the Secretary-general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) whose members contributed troops to the military coalition against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.