New CEP Reports Assess Ties Between Terror Groups In Africa And Their Ties To Organized Crime

(New York, N.Y.) — This week, the Counter Extremism Project (CEP) published a second set of new reports, Linkages Of Terrorist Groups In West Africa With Terrorist Networks In Other African Regions and Interlinkage Of Terrorism And Transnational Organized Crime In West Africa as part of a year-long joint project with the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) focusing on the various elements of instability in this region. These latest reports explore the linkages of al-Qaeda, ISIS, and Hezbollah affiliates in West Africa with other terror groups across the continent as well as with transnational organized crime networks.

In Linkages Of Terrorist Groups In West Africa With Terrorist Networks In Other African Regions, Dr. Ini Dele-Adedeji, research associate at the School of Oriental & African Studies at the University of London, and CEP Senior Research Analyst Sofia Koller analyze the interplay between Jama'at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM), IS West Africa Province (ISWAP), and IS in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) with terrorist groups in North, West-Central, Eastern, and Southern Africa. JNIM and ISGS in particular have demonstrated particular interest in expansion through the West African sub-region, taking advantage of political instability in Guinea, Burkina Faso, Chad, Guinea Bissau, and Niger, and cooperating through information sharing and participation in transnational organized crime.

The authors recommend greater cooperation among West African states through increased border security, preventing the groups from spreading southward into states surrounding the Gulf of Guinea, and collaboration with European partners to develop a database of foreign terrorist fighters in the region.

In Interlinkage Of Terrorism And Transnational Organized Crime In West Africa, illicit economies and trade expert Dr. Theo Clement and CEP Senior Director Dr. Hans-Jakob Schindler expand on the role of transnational organized crime and its use in West Africa to support these terror networks financially. Terror groups in West Africa tend to specialize regionally in a particular aspect of the transnational organized crime supply chain. For example, Hezbollah’s African cell utilizes its vast money laundering network—sourced in Lebanon—to facilitate gold and diamond smuggling. ISGS, in contrast, exacts levies on the local population in exchange for providing basic public services. Others control protected land in national parks for poaching and illicit trade—a practice that is prevalent in Burkina Faso and the forest of Sambisa.

To effectively disrupt these terror groups’ links to transnational crime networks, the report recommends employing U.S. and German military forces to stabilize the avenues utilized for illicit trade along the Gulf of Guinea, increasing cooperation with European stakeholders, and broadly reinforcing the regional law enforcement apparatus. Additionally, it encourages members of the West African sub-region to participate in the United Nations’ Office on Drugs and Crime-World Customs Organization Container Control Program and INTERPOL's West African Police Information System to improve cooperation with its northern neighbors.

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