The Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has rapidly established itself as a game changer in our age. The current pandemic is affecting the world of extremism and terrorism, too: by imposing constraints and limitations, but also by offering new opportunities for propaganda and violence. Against this backdrop, how are jihadist groups responding?
The current COVID-19 pandemic has influenced all types of socio-political movements, including what is commonly referred to as the far-left. This brief analysis will focus on how this crisis has impacted and helped to shape the contemporary leftist milieu, focusing particular attention towards information hubs and activities historically-linked to anarchist and insurrectionary anarchist tendencies.
The far right, both in Europe and the United States, has a long history of politicizing public health, casting immigrants as vectors for disease and infection, as pollutants of the body politic: poisoners of the physical and moral health of race and nation.
While many that research jihadism have focused on how the Islamic State (IS) has responded to the coronavirus pandemic, IS no longer actually controls territory in Iraq or Syria. Therefore, at best all they can do is provide guidance.
Defined by multiple dynamics of instability, the Lake Chad Basin represents a complex regional system. Over the last ten years, violent extremism has spread across the region as a result of Salafi-jihadi armed groups – Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati wal-Jihad (JAS), commonly known as Boko Haram, and Islamic State in West African Province (ISWAP) – which gave impulse to regional security cooperation processes.
The Fulani are a large and internally diverse population spread across West and Central Africa, with their largest concentration in Nigeria. In very broad terms, they can be divided into two main categories: the (semi)-nomadic and transhumant pastoralists, who raise cattle and sheep and, contrary to popular belief, usually also cultivate crops on a subsistence basis; and settled Fulani, who are not pastoralists and live in urban areas and villages as traders, farmers, traditional rulers, educated professionals.
Cameroon is an example of an increasing number of countries confronting both separatist rebellions and jihadist-armed groups. Two characteristics are nevertheless remarkable in the Cameroonian case. First, the fact that unlike some countries facing similar crises, no confusion is possible between the two insurgent fronts (in terms of territory, social base, resources mobilization channels, tactical interests and even repertoire of violent action).
The Diffa region, in the southeastern part of Niger, has become a place for armed violence since February 2015, when it experienced the first attack by Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'Awati Wal-Jihad (JAS/Group of the People of Sunnah for Preaching and Jihad, commonly known as Boko Haram). Over the last two years, the patterns, nature and levels of violence in the region have transformed as a result of the humanitarian and security response and of the internal dynamics of the insurgency.
2017 and 2018 had confirmed the pre-eminence of Boko Haram’s splinter faction known as the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), which broke away from Boko Haram’s historic leader Abubakar Shekau around mid-2016.
Since the beginning of 2020, of the three countries bordering Nigeria in the Lake Chad Basin, Cameroon has suffered the majority of civilian casualties caused by armed attacks by violent extremist groups (VEG), with over 50 deaths. Meanwhile, approximately 20 and 10 civilian deaths have been recorded in Niger and Chad respectively. Of these, Chad is the only country to have registered casualties amongst security and defense forces, nine so far this year. Attacks recorded during the first two months of 2020 represent continuity in trends from 2019.
The Lake Chad Basin shows a complex regional system defined by multiple instabilities. Non-state Salafi-jihadi actors – namely Boko Haram and the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) – confront state institutions and compete for power over local communities, fuelling regional political and economic insecurity. Furthermore, an increasingly harsh climate is having a serious impact on livelihood activities, feeding into social tensions – such as farmers-herders conflicts over access to natural resources – and prompting a severe humanitarian crisis.
The terrorist attack on London Bridge and the alleged terrorist attack at Pensacola, Florida (USA), late last year have once again demonstrated that jihadism is not dead. Indeed, despite the downscaling of al-Qaeda and the military defeats of the Islamic State, both groups are still active in waging wars on their “distant enemies” in the West.