CEP – KAS: Sahel Monitoring January 2024

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In June 2023, the author predicted that the number of attacks claimed by the three main terrorist networks in the Sahel could reach over 100 per month near the end of the year, but the statistics at that point did not support such a scenario. Even by mid-July 2023, over 100 claims per month seemed highly unlikely. However, claimed events surged from 96 in December 2023 to 129 in January 2024. An important factor explaining this sudden increase in claimed attacks was the Islamic State’s campaign in reaction to the war in Gaza, which the group named “Kill Them Wherever You Find Them”—as always in ISIS central propaganda a subtle play on the Qur’an, in this case Sura an-Nisa 4:91. An additional factor was the gradually increasing propaganda output by az-Zallaqa Media, al-Qaeda’s media outlet in the Sahel. ISGS, as usual and as it has done for the past several months, continued underreporting.

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A consistent trend remains the constant onslaught of ISWAP and JNIM against targets in Nigeria and Mali. As in previous months, the number of claims in both countries reached all-time highs in January with respectively 61 and 40 claimed events. Burkina Faso also witnessed the highest number of Jihadi claimed attacks since reporting started in December 2022. Interestingly, the propaganda output by JNIM included both attacks that the terror group conducted itself and accusations of massacres allegedly committed by the Malian or Burkinabe armed forces. Al-Qaeda increasingly attempts to portray itself as the protector of the local population in both countries.

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(Source: Deaths Linked to Militant Islamist Violence in Africa Continue to Spiral – Africa Center for Strategic Studies)

Attacks in the Sahel – General Trend

Infographic 1: Jihadist Activity in the Western Sahel

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(Source : https ://x.com/J_LuengoCabrera/status/1763189798515114185?s=20)   

After 14 months of reporting, the overall negative trend continues: the number of claimed events is rising, the death toll is increasing, and the general security situation keeps on deteriorating. Slowly but surely, this is likely going to bring the security structures in countries such as Mali or Burkina Faso to the breaking point. Both countries are at danger of losing complete control and collapsing under the continuous violence of JNIM and ISGS. In 2023, Jihadi violence in the Sahel rose to such a level that it now accounts for 50 percent of the overall terrorist casualty rate throughout the entire African continent.

Infographic 2: Militant Islamist Group-linked Fatalities by Theater

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(Source: Deaths Linked to Militant Islamist Violence in Africa Continue to Spiral – Africa Center for Strategic Studies)

As was the case in previous months, January 2024 saw the largest number of attacks claimed in Nigeria, where ISWAP published a total of 61 claims. Mali was in second place with a total number of 40 claims and, as usual, JNIM and ISGS were the predominant terrorist forces in the country. Burkina Faso witnessed 19 registered claims, which again were not only JNIM-perpetrated attacks, but also claims of atrocities against civilians allegedly committed by the Burkinabe army and associated militias. Finally, there were five registered attacks in Niger and four in Cameroon.

Table 1: Claimed Attacks (December 2022 – January 2024)

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Table 2: Claimed Attacks per Group (December 2022 – January 2024)

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Table 3: Claimed Attacks per Country (December 2022 – January 2024)

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Attacks per Country

  • Nigeria

Nigeria was the country with the highest number of attacks in a single month since reporting began in December 2022. In total, ISWAP claimed 61 attacks. A significant number of attacks were claimed by the group as part of the global ISIS campaign, “Kill Them Wherever You Find Them”, which was launched in response to the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

During January 2024, ISWAP claimed at least 25 IED attacks in the country, all of which targeted the Nigerian army and loyalist militia forces. No less than eight attacks were committed against the local Christian population in the first two weeks of January alone, all of them related to the aforementioned “Kill Them Wherever You Find Them” campaign. However, most attacks in Nigeria were of low impact, as the largest attacks had approximately ten casualties per incident.

  • Mali

As was the case in previous months, Mali remains the most affected country in the Sahel region with the highest number of terror casualties and the most impactful attacks. All but three attacks in Mali were claimed by JNIM. However, clearly more terrorist incidents occurred in the country in January, demonstrating again that ISGS propaganda continues to underreport on its operations in Mali.

As before, the Wagner Group and the Malian army were the preferred targets for terrorist groups. In total, 16 terrorist attacks on their combined forces were claimed by JNIM (15) and ISGS (1). Five of the reports by JNIM were on alleged atrocities committed by the Malian army and/or the Wagner Group on the local population. Three terrorist attacks were explicitly mentioned as attacks in revenge for the ongoing onslaught on locals.

Map 1: Security Situation in Mali – January 2024

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(Source: https://x.com/julesdhl/status/1763152379078209912?s=20)

  • Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso was targeted 19 times in total, the highest number of claims since reporting started in December 2022. Az-Zallaqa Media claimed all of these attacks as JNIM operations. Some of the attacks in Burkina Faso were of relatively high impact, resulting in at least 141 fatalities among the army and loyalist militias. In both Kaya and Kongoussi, JNIM claimed to have overrun at least four army bases.

  • Niger

In the first half of January, five attacks were claimed in Niger. It is especially noteworthy that one of these attacks was claimed by ISWAP, which so far has only operated in Nigeria, but seems to be shifting some of its operations across the border into Niger. All claimed attacks were of rather low impact.

  • Cameroon

ISWAP claimed a total of four attacks in Cameroon during the first week of January. Three of these targeted the local Christian population.

Table 4: Total number of attacks

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Attacks per Affiliate


Another record was set during the month of January 2024: az-Zallaqa Media published a total of 60 reports, the highest number to date since reporting started. Mali again was the main focus of JNIM operations with a total of 37 claims. 19 attacks were registered in Burkina Faso and 4 in Niger. The death toll of JNIM’s attacks continues to rise, at least 159 were mentioned. However, it is very likely that this is not a complete picture and that the overall number of casualties exceeds 200.

Table 5: Attacks by JNIM

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ISWAP continued to increase its attacks in Nigeria, now also fueled by the global Islamic State campaign “Kill Them Wherever You Find Them”. ISWAP claimed a total of 66 terrorist incidents during January 2024, 61 of these attacks were conducted in Nigeria, four in Cameroon, and one in Niger. Most attacks were of low to medium impact, but the overall progress of the Islamic State in the region cannot be overlooked. A most worrying trend is the increasing number of attacks on local Christian populations. Most of these attacks involved raids on small villages, killing inhabitants, burning churches and houses, and looting property.

Table 6: Attacks by ISWAP

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Interestingly, in January, ISGS claimed nearly no attacks in the region, despite overall rising levels of terrorist violence. The January 12 issue of the Islamic State’s weekly magazine, Al-Naba’, published only three claims. All these attacks were referring to attacks in Mali in the first week of January 2024. Again, the number of actual events is likely significantly higher. However, ISGS seems to continue its strategy of underreporting attacks in its propaganda and therefore, such operations are not part of the statistical data for this analysis.

Table 7: Attacks by ISGS

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During 2023, there was a noted steady increase in claimed attacks, which informed the analysis of how the beginning of 2024 would develop. The statistical model predicted in June 2023 that terrorist groups in the region would claim 104 monthly attacks from the beginning of 2024, but seemed unlikely at the time. However, January 2024 started with 129 claimed attacks, an all-time high in claimed attacks by the three terror networks in the region. It is possible that this steep increase is partially due to the ongoing “Kill Them Wherever You Find Them” campaign that the Islamic State is currently conducting globally and that the attack numbers could decrease slightly when the campaign ends. However, this does not reverse the overall negative trend. When considering the cumulative media output by az-Zallaqa Media and the Islamic State over the past year, it is very likely that the gradual increase of claimed events will grow exponentially in the months to come. The month of Ramadan is approaching during which an increase in terrorist activities is expected. Therefore, it is likely that the coming months will see record numbers of terrorist attacks in the Sahel.

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On May 8, 2019, Taliban insurgents detonated an explosive-laden vehicle and then broke into American NGO Counterpart International’s offices in Kabul. At least seven people were killed and 24 were injured.

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