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Global Islamism Monitor - No. 42

Taking on (some of) Boko Haram;
The Islamic State's fallback plan;
AQAP grows in the shadows;
Turkey's border wall

Edited by Ilan Berman and Rebekah Burgweger
August 4, 2017


TAKING ON (SOME OF) BOKO HARAM
Abubakar Shekau, the public face Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram, is now the target of a 40-day dead-or-alive manhunt by the Nigerian military. Shekau, who leads a rival faction of the group not recognized by the Islamic State, is a highly controversial - and important - figure. According to Nnamdi Obasi, a Nigeria analyst with the International Crisis Group, Shekau plays a "deep role in his faction's strategy, tactics, and targets, while also demanding total loyalty." Nevertheless, even if the manhunt is successful, Boko Haram should be expected to endure. The "insurgency's driving force is an ideology, not an individual," Obasi notes.

Shekau's rival, meanwhile, is capitalizing on the moment. Abu Musab al-Barnawi, who heads the rival faction known as ISWAP, is spearheading a resurgence of his group - one exemplified most recently by the group's kidnapping of a Nigerian oil prospecting team in the Lake Chad Basin, which ended in the death of 37 people. Al-Barnawi's faction, analysts say, is "better organized" than Shekau's unit, and possesses the capability to carry out large-scale attacks both in Nigeria and surrounding countries. Moreover, Al-Barnawi's affiliation with the Islamic State means that his fighters have access to weapons from Libya, where the Islamic State has established a significant foothold. (
Newsweek, July 29, 2017; Reuters, August 2, 2017)

THE ISLAMIC STATE'S FALLBACK PLAN

As the tide of battle turns against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, the group is increasingly retrenching to North Africa. Fighters fleeing from the Middle East are reportedly establishing a new ISIS stronghold in Libya, taking advantage of the country's "chaotic" security and political situation. Fighters affiliated with the Islamic State are said to have been recruiting members from Libya's rural Southern regions and the Western town of Sabratha, which lies just 60 miles from the Tunisian border.

The shift has Western analysts worried. The new location means the Islamic State "can jeopardize Western interests through guerrilla warfare sabotaging Libya's oil facilities and ports and through calculated use of terror to unleash a mass migration of people to destabilize neighboring countries and Europe," notes Joseph Fallon of the UK Defence Forum. (London
Daily Mail, July 31, 2017)

AQAP GROWS IN THE SHADOWS

At least one entity is benefiting from the Yemeni civil war. According to a new study from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has earned tens of millions of dollars so far as a result of the Iranian-Saudi proxy war raging in the southern Persian Gulf. The study states that AQAP has "pilfered" $60 million from Yemen's central bank and earned about $2 million per day through the imposition of taxes in Mukalla. These gains, together with the fruits of robberies, ransoms, and fuel taxes, has set the organization on a path of resurgence. "[T]he income earned in the past few years [by AQAP] is likely enough to sustain the group for some time," note the authors of the report, Yaya J. Fanusie and Alex Entz. (
CNBC, July 31, 2017)

TURKEY'S BORDER WALL

The government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey appears to be taking a page out of President Trump's playbook. Turkey has announced plans to erect a 560-mile long border wall on its common border with Syria as part of new and enhanced counterterrorism measures. Dubbed the "Integrated Border Security System," the barrier represents an effort to crack down on terrorist activity, smuggling, and illegal immigration at a time when ISIS militants are fleeing the conflict in Syria across mostly-porous borders. Eventually, Turkey expects the wall to border both Iran and Iraq as well, and to be outfitted with fiber optic sensors, unmanned aerial vehicles, observation balloons, and cameras. (
Al Monitor
, July 14, 2017)


Related Categories: Africa; Iran; Turkey; Countering Islamic Extremism Project

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