Intelligence indicates that since September 11, 2001 attack on America’s World Business Center the number of terror organizations founded on radical Islamist ideologies have since quadrupled. That amounts to as many as 230,000 Salafi jihadist fighters in nearly 70 countries, with the largest numbers in Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The increase of terror organizations has been despite numerous America-led counter-terrorism campaigns in different parts of the world major in the Middle East and Africa.
While there has not been as major an attack like 9/11, it is important to note that the groups have cumulatively amerced a larger number of casualties in their areas of operation to kill hundreds of the thousands of people in the close two decades. In parts of Africa like the East and Horn of Africa region, there are several terror organizations with the base idea of creating caliphate as well as installing strict sharia laws. As is the case globally, in East Africa the most dominant groups are either affiliated to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Al- Qaeda and with a majority of the fighters located in Somalia. Cumulatively, Islamists terror groups have close to 10,000 fighters in the East Africa region scattered in Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania.
Terror Organizations Found In East Africa
- Harakat Al-Shabaab Al-Mujahideen (Al Shabaab)
Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen known as al Shabaab is an Islamist terror organization headquartered in Somalia and is an official affiliate of Al Qaeda in the Horn of Africa region. The group was created in the 90s with a nationalist agenda especially geared at fighting the Western-backed Federal Government of Somalia. It is estimated to have between 7000-9000 fighters scattered across different regions of Somalia and the East Africa region and is headed by Ahmad Umar who is also known as Abu Ubaidah.
- Abnaa ul-Calipha (ISIS Somalia)
Abnaa ul-Calipha is the official affiliate of ISIS in Somalia which is headquartered in the mountainous regions of Puntland in northern Somalia. It was acknowledged as the official Wilayat al Somal translated to ISIS’ Somalia Province in December 2017 under the leadership of Sheikh Abdul Qadir Mumin who splintered from al Shabaab in 2015. As of 2018, the group has intensified attacks in Mogadishu and parts of Afgoye which implies an expansion from the north. It boasts of over 300 active fighters in Somalia.
- Al- Muhajiroun (Emigrants of East Africa)
Al- Muhajiroun is a terror organization that was created in 2015 operational in Kenya and Tanzania’s mainland and coastal towns. It is affiliated to al Shabaab in Somalia and has conducted several attacks in the countries herein mentioned. It is estimated to have at least a hundred Jihadists.
Al-Hijra is the main al Shabaab affiliate in Kenya that was created in 2008 in the Majengo and Pumwani areas of Kenya. It originally was called the Muslim Youth Center but changed its name to al-Hijra in 2012. Intelligence indicates that it was behind some of the most lethal terror attacks in Kenya among the Westgate Mall attack in 2013 and the Garissa University attack in 2015. It is believed to have an estimated 100-200 fighters in different parts of Kenya but mainly Nairobi and coastal counties like Lamu and Mombasa.
- Allied Democratic Forces (ADF-Uganda/DRC)
The ADF was formed in the 90s but remained relatively dormant until 2004 when the group started operating actively in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo with the aim of establishing Sharia law in both countries. Although the in both countries Muslims a larger minority, the group has mounted several attacks targeting Christians and security forces. it has over 150 active fighters mainly found at the border areas of Uganda and DRC.
- Mombasa Republican Council (MRC)
The MRC was formed in the 90s but remained dormant until 2008 and later reformed in 2014 under the leadership of radical sheikhs seeking secession of the coastal region from Kenya. It reinvented itself to be called Pwani Democratic Movement that has been directly liked to al Shabaab activities, especially in Mombasa and Lamu. It has been used as a recruitment front for the al Shabaab in Kenya and has between 100-300 Jihadists.
- Jahba East Africa (ISIS in Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda (ISISSKTU))
ISISSKTU was formed in 2016 and swore allegiance to ISIS central and the caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in April of the same year. The group denounced al Shabaab citing prison-like situations within the ranks and rallied all affiliates to defect to ISIS. Jahba E.A has an estimated 100-150 Jihadists active in Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.
- Ansaar Muslim Youth Center Tanzania
Ansaar Muslim Youth Center of Tanzania is a terror organization that was closely associated with the radical Sheikh Ponda Issa Ponda of the Jumuiya ya Taasisi ya Kiislamu in Dar-es-Salaam. The groups were linked to the burning of several churches in Tanzania and have between 50-100 members.
It is important to note that majority of the herein mentioned groups are affiliates of either al-Qaeda-linked al Shabaab or ISIS in Somalia and as such, they may not have commitment violet crimes. However, the scattered terror cells pose a major threat to the security in the East African region and have emerged in the past two decades indicating a fundamental failure in curbing radicalization and violent extremist despite having active counter-terrorism campaigns.