The Bombing in the Democratic Republic of Congo Is a Sign of Islamic State’s Growing Presence in Central Africa

Dec. 27 2021

On Saturday, a suicide bombing killed at least five people in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), near its border with Uganda. Likely responsible for the attack are the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a jihadist group founded in the 1990s, which since at least 2019 has been affiliated with Islamic State (IS). Ryan O’Farrell, in an article published on December 14, outlines the ADF’s history, its terrorist activities, and its deepening ties with IS. The last began after 2014, when the ADF was reeling from a Congolese military campaign against it:

By early 2017, contact had been made with Islamic State financiers in Kenya, and the ADF received transfers of money throughout 2017. In October 2017, a video circulated on unofficial Islamic State supporters’ channels of a Tanzanian man of Arab descent exhorting others to come to “Dar al-Islam of the Islamic State in Central Africa,” the first public mention of “Islamic State” and “Central Africa” as a name for the group and a clear aspirational reference to Islamic State.

When Islamic State began releasing claims and media of ADF attacks in April 2019, it became clear that communications had become sustained and consistent. It was almost certainly no coincidence that Islamic State began claiming the ADF’s attacks less than a month after the fall of Baghuz, the last stretch of its “territorial caliphate” in Iraq and Syria to fall to the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. While Musa Baluku, [commander of the ADF], saw recognition as a means of securing his position as leader, Islamic State saw the ADF as another front into which it could expand its reach, even if this “expansion” was really the adoption of a local insurgency rather than substantial movement of personnel or weaponry.

The Congolese military thus launched a major operation against the group in late October 2019, just weeks after [the IS leader] Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s death in northwestern Syria. . . . In the three months after the offensive began, the ADF killed at least 334 civilians. . . . Despite the October 2019 offensive, and later the declaration of martial law in April 2021, the ADF has grown increasingly active, launching more and deadlier attacks on civilian and military targets.

Unlike other jihadist groups in Africa, the ADF does not try to appeal to local civilian populations by providing social services and has not attempted to portray itself to local civilians as a preferable alternative to the Congolese state. . . . Perhaps most importantly, the Muslim community in the areas where the ADF operates remains a tiny fraction of the total population, while the ADF’s leadership utilizes extremist rhetoric to justify indiscriminate attacks against the largely Christian local population.

Read more at Newlines Institute

More about: Africa, ISIS, Jihadism

Israel Is Courting Saudi Arabia by Confronting Iran

Most likely, it was the Israeli Air Force that attacked eastern Syria Monday night, apparently destroying a convoy carrying Iranian weapons. Yoav Limor comments:

Israel reportedly carried out 32 attacks in Syria in 2022, and since early 2023 it has already struck 25 times in the country—at the very least. . . . The Iranian-Israeli clash stands out in the wake of the dramatic events in the region, chiefly among them is the effort to strike a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and later on with various other Muslim-Sunni states. Iran is trying to torpedo this process and has even publicly warned Saudi Arabia not to “gamble on a losing horse” because Israel’s demise is near. Riyadh is unlikely to heed that demand, for its own reasons.

Despite the thaw in relations between the kingdom and the Islamic Republic—including the exchange of ambassadors—the Saudis remain very suspicious of the Iranians. A strategic manifestation of that is that Riyadh is trying to forge a defense pact with the U.S.; a tactical manifestation took place this week when Saudi soccer players refused to play a match in Iran because of a bust of the former Revolutionary Guard commander Qassem Suleimani, [a master terrorist whose militias have wreaked havoc throughout the Middle East, including within Saudi borders].

Of course, Israel is trying to bring Saudi Arabia into its orbit and to create a strong common front against Iran. The attack in Syria is ostensibly unrelated to the normalization process and is meant to prevent the terrorists on Israel’s northern border from laying their hands on sophisticated arms, but it nevertheless serves as a clear reminder for Riyadh that it must not scale back its fight against the constant danger posed by Iran.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Saudi Arabia, Syria