Recently, the world has been glued to their screens watching the conflicts in Israel, and Ukraine. However, it is important to remember there are hostile factions still operating around the globe.
Terror groups continue to threaten global stability as a whole. In fact, the number of terror attacks in the continent of Africa alone has increased by 300% within the last decade. These groups often fund themselves through transnational organized crime. Some local governments in Africa have struggled to combat Jihadi terror operations in their regions. As a result, they have even called upon the Putin-affiliated mercenary company, the Wagner Group, to assist.
There are many different groups conducting crimes in both the shadows and out in the open. However, we are going to focus on some of the more brazen factions out there today:
Translating to “the youth”, Al-Shabaab aims to create a fundamentalist Islamic state in Somalia, and eventually the entire horn of Africa. Al-Shabaab frequently employs hit and run type ambushes, suicide bombers, and IEDS when targeting security forces. On high profile targets such as hotels and government buildings, Al-Shabaab utilizes “strategic suicide bombings and shootings.” The group would first have one or several suicide bombers detonate their devices, distracting security forces. Subsequently, several gunmen would storm the premises, opening fire. On February 28th, 2019, Al-Shabaab militants turned their attention to a busy hotel in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu.
The attack began with a single suicide bomber completely destroying the facade of the Maka al-Mukarama hotel, as well as neighboring shops and restraunts. Following the explosion, the hotel was stormed by four gunmen who opened fire and used civilians as human shields. Over 17 were killed and at least 20 were wounded. All five attackers, including the suicide bomber were eliminated. This attack came after the United States conducted an air strike against the terror group. The group is also known for using children as suicide bombers and women and girls as war brides. Al-Shabaab will often use Somali pirates to smuggle weapons.
Founded in 2009, Boko Haram is a West African Jihadi terror group that believes Nigeria is ruled by corrupt, false Muslims. They aim to overthrow the government and replace it with a “pure” Islamic caliphate. Their belief system deems western ideals as forbidden, including receiving a secular education. Because of this, Boko Haram is notorious for kidnapping school children. In April 2014, the group kidnapped 276 high school aged girls from their school. A video statement of a man claiming to be a Boko Haram leader emerged with him stating, “I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market by Allah…there is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell. I will sell women. I sell women.”
As of June 2023, over 90 are still missing. However, others have returned to their village pregnant or with babies. Using guns, IEDS, and suicide bombers, Boko Haram mostly attacks churches and politcal opponents. Sometimes referred to as the “Nigerian Taliban'', in 2015 Boko Haram surpassed ISIS as the deadliest terror group in the world. Boko Haram is currently in a fight for territory against ISIS West Africa Province (ISWAP) in Borno State, Nigeria.
Unlike the aforementioned terrorist groups, Al-Qaeda seeks to create a global caliphate, rather than a one country or one region caliphate. Founded by Osama Bin Laden in 1988, it is considered one of the earliest modern Jihadi terror groups. Like the Taliban, it was created by splinters of Mujahideen fighters. Al-Qaeda has 5 main regional affiliates in the Arabian Peninsula, North Africa, East Africa, Syria, and the Indian subcontinent. However, Al-Qaeda affiliated attacks span from Europe to America to West Africa. In the late 1990s, the group was vehemently opposed to American military presence in Saudi Arabia. As a result, they bombed the USS Cole off the coast of Yemen, then the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania before conducting the 9/11 attacks. On January 7th, 2015, 2 gunmen forced their way into the offices of a French satirical newspaper where they killed 12 and injured 11.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed responsibility, citing it as a retaliation for the newspaper illustrating the prophet Muhammed. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is on the rise in Africa. To fundraise, they frequently kidnap for ransom. Additionally the group takes part in trafficking of humans, arms, vehicles, and cigarettes. Via The Washington Institute
An offshoot of Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as Daesh, was originally founded in 2004. After the 2007 surge of US troops in Iraq, the group faded off the map. In the early 2010s, it began to re-emerge. Like Al-Qaeda, ISIS seeks to create a global caliphate. Even after losing massive swaths of territory in the late 2010s, operations are still conducted in the Levant, and there are at least 19 different ISIS branches throughout Asia, Africa, and Europe. ISIS uses the age of social media to advance their recruiting. Before the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS cracked down on its internet presence, the group would use social media platforms such as Tumblr and Twitter to target youth in the west. Online recruiting helped the group quickly gain momentum. Seemingly ordinary people from every corner of the world sought to join ISIS.
During its heyday, ISIS waged a bloody war in order to form a caliphate throughout Iraq and Syria. Tactics included suicide bombing and small arms. To maintain control of the citizenry, the group rules with an iron fist. There are cases of ISIS crucifying those who don't fast for Ramadan and burning girls and women who refuse to be ISIS brides alive. The group will often target civilians via suicide bombing at large public gatherings such as markets. ISIS-K was responsible for the HKIA attack during the Afghanistan pull-out. On November 13th, 2015, a Europe-based cell of the group conducted coordinated attacks in busy Paris areas. At least 415 were killed. In 2014, ISIS executed a massive attack on the Yazidi population. Thousands of men were killed and thousands of women were forced into sexual slavery. The international community is just now beginning to categorize this as a genocide.
The Soviet-Afghan war lasted from December 24th, 1979 to February 15th, 1989. These nine years saw a brutal guerilla-style war between the Soviet Union and Afghan insurgents. Haunted by the specter of the cold war, the United States government under the Carter Administration provided aid to the Afghan mujahideen insurgents. The CIA covertly funded these groups. A splinter group of mujahideen formed the Taliban.
After studying in Pakistan seminaries, they opted for the name Taliban, derived from the plural of the word talib, Arabic for students of Islam. The group of students forming the Taliban derive mostly from Pashtun origin. Though the Taliban operates out of Afghanistan, there is a splinter group in Pakistan. The Taliban abides by strict Islamic fundamentalism.
Their intent is to create an Islamic caliphate in Afghanistan. To further this goal, the Taliban formed a religious police penned the “the Ministry for the Suppression of Vice and the Promotion of Virtue.” This police force doles out executions and corporal punishments for offenses ranging from criticizing Islam to women leaving the home without a hijab. The group views Jihad as a divine obligation. Its targets include civilians, as well as pro-Afghan government officials, security forces, and foreign militaries in Afghanistan. In August 2015, a Taliban suicide bomber attempted to detonate a truck full of explosives near the Afghan Ministry of Defense. It instead caused a large explosion in a residential area, killing 15 and wounding 400. After the signing of the Doha Agreement and 2021 withdrawal, the Taliban promised to return as a gentle and legitimate government. The swift rollback of women's rights and harboring of an Al-Qaeda higher-up prove this to be a lie. They are currently clashing with ISIS Khorasan Province (ISIS-K).
In the Summer of 2021, the decades-long Global War on Terror came to an “end” with the withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan. However, terror is alive and well. There are still militants who use radical ideologies to brutalize innocent men, women, and children. Today, there are almost four times as many fighters in these groups today than there were at the onset of the war on terror.