Propaganda, little else, unites Africa’s jihadist groups: experts

Propaganda, little else, unites Africa’s jihadist groups: experts

PARIS - African Islamist groups claiming links to Al-Qaeda spout the same propaganda and sometimes collaborate in minor ways, but they are chiefly focused on their own localised goals, experts say.

"Nothing could be more wrong than conflating the horror of Nairobi with other eruptions of jihadist violence on the African continent," said political scientist Jean-Pierre Filiu.

Each of these groups - Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM), Boko Haram of Nigeria and Somalia's Shebab - "has its own priorities, which high-profile terrorism allows them to further," he told AFP.

"Each is fighting a local enemy (and) there is no operational coherence or coordinated direction, just the same jihadist propaganda," he added.

Experts say AQIM and Boko Haram, which are geographically close, have traded weapons and equipment, and that some Nigerian militants have been trained in AQIM camps, but this does not imply a unified movement.

As for the Shebab, who mounted the siege of an upmarket Nairobi shopping mall at the weekend, killing dozens of shoppers, they recruit and raise funds in the West, especially from the Somali diaspora in Europe and the United States.

However, some experts say the leaders of Al-Qaeda in the Afghan-Pakistan region are tempted to view Africa as a gateway to expansion, all the more crucial because of their own decline.

While in Afghanistan and Pakistan Al-Qaeda has been largely reduced to dodging US drone attacks, Africa offers vast swathes of lawless territory where borders are porous and regular armies have failed to bring Islamist groups under control.

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