July 3, 2024 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1772

A Snapshot Of The Islamic State's Persecution Of African Christians: 698 Christians In The DRC, Mozambique, Nigeria, Cameroon, And Mali Killed In First Half Of 2024

July 3, 2024 | By Matt Schierer*
Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1772

The following report is now a complimentary offering from MEMRI's Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM). For JTTM subscription information, click here.

One harrowing consequence of the Islamic State's (ISIS) territorial expansion in Africa is the indiscriminate slaughter, displacement, and harassment of the continent's Christians. Indeed, in countries such as Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mozambique, Cameroon, and Mali, Christians are suffering from unprecedented levels of persecution, often with little or no global attention.[1]

MEMRI JTTM has previously spotlighted the plight of Africa's Christians, documenting in-depth the Islamic State's campaign of targeted violence against them on the continent.[2] Now, we endeavor to further elucidate the stunning scale of violence by tracking ISIS attacks on African Christians in real-time.

This report thus summarizes all attacks on Christians which were claimed by ISIS in the first half of the year, From January 1 to June 30, 2024. Countries which are mentioned in this report include Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mozambique, Cameroon, and Mali. Four of the Islamic State's sub-Saharan provinces – Central Africa, Mozambique, West Africa, and Sahel – are responsible for these crimes.

The report firstly overviews ISIS attacks on Christians in sum, totaling the number of Christians who were killed by country and method of attack, as well as summing up the total materiel damage incurred to Christian homes, churches, and schools across the continent.

The report then further breaks down these figures by country, highlighting apparent trends in country-specific violence committed by the Islamic State's respective provinces. The report serves as a snapshot of ISIS's attacks on Christians in Africa thus far in 2024; it is not meant to be an exhaustive review of violent incidents.

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A Snapshot Of The Islamic State's Persecution Of African Christians In 2024

From January 1 to June 30, 2024, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for killing a total of 698 African Christians. These included Christians from the DRC, Mozambique, Nigeria, Mali, and Cameroon, as detailed below.

Of the 698 Christian fatalities, 319 were decapitated, while 379 were shot to death. Additionally, the Islamic State claimed to have kidnapped – but not killed – 63 Christians, and to have burned at least 1,049 homes, destroying 23 churches and 12 schools.

By country, the overwhelming majority of Christians – 639 people – were killed in the DRC at the hands of Islamic State Central Africa Province (ISCAP). This amounts to about 92% of all Christian fatalities in the first half of 2024. Second to the DRC was Mozambique, where 29 Christians were killed, followed by Nigeria (23 Christian fatalities), Mali (4), and Cameroon (3).

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Christians Beheaded En Mass In The DRC

As mentioned above, violence against African Christians was most acute in the DRC, where ISCAP claimed responsibility for killing a total of 639 Christians, comprising the vast majority of Christians killed in Africa in the first half of 2024. All attacks occurred in the DRC's northeastern provinces of North-Kivu and Ituri, which border Uganda.

Fatalities also rose sharply toward the end of the timeframe, with ISCAP claiming to have killed 300 Christians – or about 47% of the total in 2024 so far – in June alone.

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The DRC was further distinguished by the methods of attack employed by the Islamic State; ISCAP reportedly beheaded 314 Christians, or roughly half of all the Christians who were killed in the DRC during the timeframe. This stands in stark contrast to the favored methods of attack by other ISIS provinces, with the only other province to decapitate Christians thus far in 2024 being Islamic State Mozambique Province, an offshoot of ISCAP. There, five Christians were beheaded, compared to 314 in the DRC.

In the DRC, 325 more Christians were shot to death and 50 were kidnapped. ISCAP also claimed to have burned at least 93 Christian homes.

To illustrate the horror of the violence, on June 7, 2024, ISCAP summarily beheaded at least 60 Christians, who were captured during an attack on the village of Masala in the Beni Territory of North Kivu Province.[3]

The ISIS province also routinely publishes photos and videos documenting such horrific attacks in an effort to further terrorize the country's Christian community. Some of these propaganda efforts are included below for reference.

An ISIS fighter removed the Cross from a church in the village of Mangodomu, in the DRC's Beni Territory, on April 2, 2024.

Three Christians who were taken captive during an attack on the village of Mangodomu in the DRC's Beni Territory on April 2, 2024.

Mozambique: Christian Homes, Churches, And Schools In Flames

Islamic State Mozambique Province (ISMP) – which formed out of the Central Africa Province in 2019 – also committed gross acts of violence against Christians in the first half of 2024. In total, the province claimed responsibility for killing 29 Christians in Mozambique, primarily in the country's northern Cabo Delgado Province, which borders Tanzania. The ISIS province also committed a limited number of attacks in the neighboring province of Nampula in April.

As mentioned above, five Christians were beheaded in ISIS attacks, while the remaining 24 were shot to death. However, what primarily distinguished the terror acts against Mozambican Christians during the timeframe was the mass burning of Christians homes, churches, and schools. Indeed, ISMP claimed to have burned more than 939 homes in the first half of 2024, as well as 21 churches and 12 schools. These sums account for about 90% of all Christian homes burned in Africa, 91% of all churches, and 100% of all schools.

To illustrate, ISMP released a photoset on May 1, which documented its operatives removing the Cross from a church in the village of Manica in Nampula Province, and burning Christian homes.[4]

Nigerian And Cameroonian Christians Under Threat In Lake Chad Basin

In Nigeria, violence against Christians predominantly took place in Borno State, where the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) retains a stronghold. The group also carried out limited attacks in the neighboring Yobe State, as well as one attack in Adamawa State, which borders Cameroon to the east. Meanwhile in Cameroon's Far North region, three Christians were killed.

In total, ISWAP claimed responsibility for killing 26 Christians, 23 of whom were Nigerian and three were Cameroonian. All of them were shot to death.

Additionally, 13 Christians were kidnapped, and 17 homes were burned, alongside two churches and two schools.

ISIS fighters raid a Christian home in the village of Bulamalum in Borno State, Nigeria, on January 1, 2024.

An ISIS fighter sets fire to a Christian home near Chibok in Borno State, Nigeria, on January 2, 2024.

Islamic State Sahel Province Executes Four Malian Christians

Islamic State Sahel Province (ISSP) claimed one attack on Christians during the timeframe. On March 21, 2024, its fighters reportedly captured and executed four Christians by machine gun fire, whom they encountered on a road between the villages of Ansongo and Labbenzanga in Mali's northeastern Gao region.[5]

The statement claiming responsibility for the execution of four Christians in Mali's Gao region on March 21, 2024.

The Persecution Of Africa's Christians In Focus

This report is but a snapshot of the violence inflicted on Africa's Christians by the Islamic State. The report's frame is intentionally limited to just the first six months of 2024, from January 1 to June 30; a complete picture of the phenomenon would necessarily require widening the scope of analysis to include a host of other factors.

Nevertheless, while the report does not aim to be exhaustive, it does seek to capture the contours of a discernible pattern of violence at present. On these terms, what clearly comes into focus is a still shot of tangible human suffering: the Islamic State's expansion in Africa comes at the heavy expense of the continent's Christians.

*Matt Schierer is a research fellow at MEMRI JTTM Project.

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