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August 25, 2023 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1713

In The Aftermath Of The Coup In Niger, Jihadis Eye Exacerbating Instability In Sahel, Celebrate 'Terrific Gains' In Region, Claim Advent Of Russia-Backed Wagner Group Would Draw Locals Towards Jihadis

August 25, 2023
Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1713

Over the past three years, the Sahel and Sahara region has faced significant upheavals, particularly following a series of coups in Mali and Burkina Faso between 2020 and 2022, which further prolonged instability in the region and resulted in entrenched military regimes and emboldened jihadis.

After seizing power in Mali and Burkina Faso, the military juntas in power requested the departure of French troops from the Sahel countries in August 2022 and January 2023 respectively, terminating existing security partnerships with Western parties and consequently jeopardizing counterterrorism efforts in the Sahel.

The shift in the military regimes' diplomatic and security priorities marked the beginning of an unorthodox move to turn to Russia and its state-backed private military company (PMC), the Wagner Group, to purportedly counter the growing Salafi-jihadi threat posed by Al-Qaeda affiliate, the Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (GSIM),[1] and the Islamic State Sahel Province (ISSP), also known as the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), which was recognized as its own province independent of the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) in March 2022.[2]

The following MEMRI JTTM report examines recent messaging by entities supporting the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda on the "favorable" situation of unrest in Niger, highlighting their ambition to exploit the violence to undermine local governments affiliated with "unbeliever" allies such as France and other stakeholders and advance their operational activities in the region.

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