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Sub-Saharan African Jihadis, A Growing Concern For The U.S. As Islamic State Disintegrates, Are Ascendant On Social Media

By: A. Agron*

Introduction

Sub-Saharan Africa – A Growing Concern For The U.S.

Recently, the U.S. has launched an aggressive campaign against ISIS-linked militants in Somalia. One United Nations expert also posited that ISIS in Somalia could pose a significant threat to the Somali government if militants from Iraq and Syria were to join its ranks.[1] On November 3, 2017, the U.S. conducted the first airstrikes against ISIS targets in Somalia, in the northeast of the country, reportedly killing several fighters.[2]

The U.S.'s security concerns in Africa have evolved over time. Initially, the U.S. was more focused on East African groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda and its Somali branch Al-Shabaab, but over the past several years, it has been closely monitoring events in West Africa as well.[3]

Africa's geography plays a part in the increasing concern among Western officials about ISIS's influence; for example, ISIS fighters fleeing the organization's strongholds in Iraq and Syria may be joining up with other jihadis in Somalia.

The October 4, 2017 ambush in Niger, which killed four American servicemen should also be noted. The region in which the troops were killed, bordering Mali, is known to host groups loyal to both ISIS and Al-Qaeda. It appears that an ISIS loyalist group carried out the Niger attack.[4]

Support for jihadism in Africa appears to be fluid and not sharply divided between figures strongly associated with either ISIS or Al-Qaeda – in contrast to the rest of the world, where most supporters are firmly in one camp or the other.

Though the Somalia-based Al-Shabab Al-Mujahideen pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda in 2012, over the years many ISIS supporters have been hoping to see the group's allegiance switch to ISIS; some Al-Shabab members appear to have defected to ISIS. For example, in 2015, Abdul Qadir Mumin, a high-ranking spiritual leader with Al-Shabab, pledged allegiance to ISIS.[5] The following year, Jabha East Africa, an East African jihadi group seemingly also loyal to Al-Shabab, pledged allegiance to ISIS.[6] These moves are indicative of the division in Al-Shabab's ranks on the issue.

Jihadi News Outlets Now Using Social Media To Report On Sub-Saharan Jihadi Activities – Including Information On Attacks, Claims of Responsibility

Reflecting the spread of jihadism in Africa, the official ISIS media outlet A'maq News Agency posts daily updates, via its Telegram channel, about various military developments in ISIS territory, and is the main outlet for ISIS's claims of responsibility for attacks. Though A'maq primarily focuses on issues pertaining to Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Philippines, in October 2017, it reported an attack on police officers in the city of Bosaso, Somalia. In February 2017, ISIS claimed responsibility, via A'maq, for an attack on a hotel in Bosaso that killed four, and in May 2017 it did likewise for a suicide bombing at a police checkpoint in Bosaso that killed five. A'maq has also released bulletins on ISIS activity in West African countries where the organization operates, such as Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Cameroon.

Recent A'maq bulletin reporting on killing of a Somali policeman

December 21 WNN bulletin on Khilafa soldiers attacking Nigerian army

 

Additionally, in July 2017, a new pro-Al-Qaeda group, Al-Hijrah, began publishing news bulletins on global jihadi affairs on Telegram, with a focus on jihad news from Africa. The first Al-Hijrah bulletin prominently featured an undated statement by Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri titled "Beware of the plots of those who want to water down Al-Shabaab."[7]

 

Sub-Saharan African Jihadis Increasingly Using Social Media – Primarily Facebook And Telegram

In addition to jihadi media outlets disseminating news about jihad in Africa on social media, Sub-Saharan African jihadis and jihad supporters themselves are increasingly evident on social media, with the current platform of choice appearing to be Facebook. Jihadis and jihad supporters, most prominently Somalis, Tanzanians, and Kenyans, have recently established a presence on it. Sub -Saharan African Jihadis are catching up to their Western counterparts, and are participating in news reporting, and dissemination of jihadi content as well. 

Several apparently influential Somali jihad supporters regularly post links on their pages to ISIS productions hosted on Archive.org, and frequently post links to Somali-language jihadi Telegram channels such as "Habari Za Khalifah"  and "Alhijrateyn Group."

Support for jihad, and particularly for ISIS, on social media is also growing in sub-Saharan countries that are not predominantly Muslim. such as Ethiopia. A June 2017 MEMRI report focused on a large network of pro-ISIS Ethiopians who are active on Facebook.[8]

In March 2016, MEMRI reported on an ISIS disseminator and fighter on Facebook who shared lectures by an ISIS sheikh in the Wolof language, a language spoken by more than 10 million people in West Africa, especially in Senegal, Gambia, and Mauritania. This militant's location is not clear, but he is likely based in Libya.[9] 

South Africa, another sub-Saharan nation whose population is not majority Muslim, has also had some ISIS supporters who were active on social media. A woman going by Saadah Mokoena on Facebook regularly documented her life in Raqqa, where she had immigrated with her entire family.[10]

Another example of jihadi use of social media in the region was the October 2017 circulation of a video by Madinaat Tauweed Waimuwahedeen ("City of Monotheism and Monotheists," or MTM), an African jihadi group sympathetic to ISIS. In the video, the group called on individuals to immigrate to the Congo, possibly referring to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and featured an Arabic-speaking militant who proclaimed, "This is the Islamic State in Central Africa." The video was greeted with substantial fanfare from numerous pro-ISIS channels on Telegram and from individuals on Facebook. An MTM-linked account on Facebook shared the video, and provided updates and videos on the group's activities.

The following report will provide examples of accounts on Telegram and on Facebook that are linked to jihadis in sub-Saharan Africa – Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania.

 Somali Jihadi Activity On Facebook

There appear to be several influential pro-ISIS Somali recruiters on Facebook. User Qacqac Alsomali's profile says he is from Caluula, in the Baria administrative region of, Somalia, and that he currently resides in Al-Anbar, Iraq. Alsomali appears to be fluent in Arabic as well as Somali, and translates official statements from the Islamic State's media outlet A'maq News Agency into Somali. Alsomali also shares links to the most recent ISIS video productions and links to pro-ISIS Telegram channels in the Somali language.

On November 15, 2017, Alsomali posted links to a new ISIS video on YouTube, Facebook, and on Archive.org.

User Wararka Khilaafada also appears to be a pro-ISIS Somali disseminator.

The account of user Umu Qidaab Soomaali features a photo of Al-Shabab spokesman Ali Mahmoud Rage.

 
Shared by Somali jihadi supporter Umu Libaax.

 
User Macallin Garweyne from Mogadishu.

 
User Cali Doonbirale provides his Somali phone number on Facebook (+252 61 3015829).

User Msomali Mzanzibar, who lives in Hargeysa, Woqooyi Galbeed, Somalia has an image of Turki Al-Binali, a late senior religious figure in ISIS, as his profile picture.

User Taariq Taariq posts a photo of slain Al-Shabab commander Sheikh Muhammad Dulyadeyn (also spelled Dhulyadeyn), who was killed in 2016 in Garissa, Kenya, and writes: "Our leader... Another can choose to return to safety or forward. Enrichment should be selected once again the fear must be overcome again and again."

User Udugu Wa Kiislamu regularly posts news bulletins from the ISIS-affiliated Wilayat News Network (WNN).

User Aboud Shin's profile says that he lives in Mogadishu.

On November 14, 2017, Maxamed Liibaan shared an old video featuring the late Al-Qaeda commander Abu Yaha Al-Libi.

Facebook user Salahudin Hashim actively shared jihadi updates involving Somalia and Kenya in English on Facebook and on Telegram. His Telegram channel, which he recently promoted on his Facebook account, is titled "The Frontlines Of Glory." Hashim describes himself as "a radicalized Jihad reporter from Somalia."

 

In a Telegram post on November 28, Hashim wrote: "My East African bro, this holy war in the world today has many advantages for us:

  1. To life[sic] peace in the world today has nonsense for us because we can't give help any other freely.
  2. We can't move freely to any other Muslim land.
  3. We have no dignity
  4. The Kufars have the upper hand
  5. They do anything in or countries and humiliate us.
  6. One kufar from Paris or Ohio exploits our resources. So ask yourselves why all these are happening for us? Why man from hundredths [sic] of kilometers are colonizing us? It's not that they are batter than us or they have something we don't have. The answer is definitely easy by the real men with pretty shining minds can understand. They only invaded and captured our lands and defeated our grandfathers taking advantage to greedy ones among us after the capture they exploit all our resources moving to their empty ones and produced products from our exploited resources they sent it back to us making market to earn money. If we understand the problem so, ask yourself what is solve of it [sic]?

"First note, that the fight and straggle [sic] has never losses [sic] but it has dignity and that even if you were defeated your enemy respects you for your manhood.

"But we know that we have lands they get the resources they produce their commodity we are also the market for their products. So we have chances to get rid of them easily. Our real solve [sic] is fight for the sake of Allah and jihad. What next when we took our guns and fight them? What consequences the fight can cause? Is next inshallah…".

Tanzanian Jihadi Facebook Accounts

User Asinati Juma, who shares ISIS content, is Tanzanian.

The profile of user Saidy Qital Al-Muhaajir says that he is from Arusha, Tanzania.

The profile of user Abu-hagar Al mujaahed says that he is from Tanga and lives in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The profile of user Mjahideen Rudonongo says that he lives in Dar es Salaam.

 
User Huu Ndio Uislamu from Tanzania.

 
User Seifu Abdallah from Zanzibar.

Bin Hamadi Al Tanzanian shares ISIS videos on Facebook.

On October 17, four Tanzanian Facebook friends expressed their approval in comments on Al Tanzanian's post praising ISIS.

User Kichwa Da Leader circulated a graphic featuring a quote by the late Islamist cleric Anwar Al-'Awlaki.

 


User Abuu Hajr Al Tanzaniun.

Kenyan Jihadi Activity On Facebook

User Mjahid Qital's profile says that he is from Mombasa, Kenya and currently resides in Mosul, Iraq.

Kwetu Amu Mombasa's profile picture features Osama bin Laden.

 

The profile picture of user Caalamul Yown from Nairobi is an image of Mevlüt Mert Altıntaş, the Turkish man who assassinated Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov in Ankara in December 2016.

User Qasimu Salumu from Diani.

 

User Aboud Iman Samir from Mombasa.

Pro-Jihad Swahili-Language Accounts

The group "Jihad: And sufficient is Allah as Witness" is a public group in the Swahili language that has 271 members.

 

Swahili pro-ISIS account.

Swahili pro-ISIS account.

Ethiopian Pro-ISIS Accounts

User Cabdi Cali Warsame of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia has a photo of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi as his Facebook profile picture.

The user below appears to be an ISIS supporter.

 
Ethiopian ISIS supporter.

On November 9, this user shared a link on their Facebook page to a pro-ISIS Telegram group with 113 members in the Amharic language.

 
Ethiopian ISIS supporter.

The ISIS online magazine Rumiyah does not have an Amharic edition; there has been some circulation of copies in English by Ethiopians.

User Assen Abdulahi Habesha posted a graphic stating "Soon in Ethiopia." The graphic shows images of the faces of Ethiopian leaders lying on the ground at the militants' feet.

Other Jihadi Accounts

User Nasru Umma AbuBakar Allih claims to be from Bukavu, in the Congo.

User Mhajireen Fsabeel Llah is from Uganda.

User Abibu Adam is from Kuluva, Arua, Uganda.

AbduRahman Rahman, an ISIS supporter from Mozambique, is active on Facebook.

On November 26, 2017 a Gambian pro-ISIS account named Dawlat Al Islam complained about five previous Facebook suspensions.

Somali-Language Jihadi Accounts On Telegram

The following are several images showing Somali-language Telegram accounts.  

Jihad supporter Abu Ayman As-Somali, posted a link to a Somali Telegram group providing tutorials on programs like Adobe.

An individual in the French Telegram group Edifice-Renforce-Public asked to be connected with "brothers" from the Ivory Coast in West Africa. One user responded that they knew of one such individual in Senegal.

ISIS Bulletins On Somalia

On October 24, 2017, the WNN translated an A'maq News Agency bulletin from Arabic into English. The report detailed an attack on Somali police in Bosaso.

 
Original A'maq Agency statement.

 

[1] Associated Press, November 13, 2017.

[2] CNN, November 3, 2017.

[3] Worldview.stratfor.com, November 1, 2017.

[4] The New York Times, October 29, 2017.

[5] CNN, October 23, 2015.

[6] The Independent, April 8, 2016.

[8] See MEMRI JTTM report Clique Of Ethiopian ISIS Supporters Active On Facebook, June 29, 2017.

[10] See MEMRI JTTM report A Portrait Of A South African Family In Raqqa, On Facebook, September 20, 2016.