The expansion of the conflict between ISIS and Al-Qaeda in the Sahel and the Sahara… Whose weight will tip?

The conflict was manifested in clashes between the two organizations, the first of its kind in the region, which is considered to be the areas of influence of the “Victory of Islam and Muslims” group, al-Qaeda’s branch in the Greater Sahara, which is made up of the merger of 5 local groups.

On January 28, violent clashes erupted between them in Tin Akuf, northeastern Burkina Faso, on the border with Mali, and extended east to the village of Bekle in Tissi on the Mali border with Burkina Faso, after the arrival of great support from the Support for Islam and Muslims, which It is led by the internationally wanted terrorist “Iyad Ag Ghaly”.

The elements of “Supporting Islam and Muslims” launched displacement operations on charges of loyalty to ISIS, and imposed a curfew amid clashes that took place on February 3 and 4, and took control of the “Tandriwill” valley until “Tin Drangiten”, which forced ISIS to withdraw.

On February 5, the Nusrat al-Islam and Muslims group attacked the village of Tobani on the northern front of the municipality of Tsit, killed 4 Fulani tribesmen on charges of loyalty to ISIS, kidnapped the leader of the area, seized livestock and warned residents to evacuate their homes.

Clashes between the al-Qaeda branch and ISIS extended to the west of the village of Horara, on February 5 and 6.

ISIS is active in the Sahara, mainly in the Tillaberi region in southwestern Niger, in Ménaka, in the far north-east of Mali, and in the Som and Oudlan regions north of Burkina Faso.

Terror increase

Since 2012, terrorist groups in the Sahel and Sahara have continued to implement their ideology of conquest and expansion, taking advantage of the ties with the population and fierce battles against their opponents, led by ISIS.

According to a report by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (based in Washington) in January, Burkina Faso, Mali and western Niger witnessed an increase in terrorist operations by 10% in 2021, recording 5,500 acts of violence and terrorism, and the victims of “Supporting Islam and Muslims” operations amounted to 12,700 deaths, and the scope of violence expanded. Geographically towards Burkina Faso, which accounts for 58% of the violence in the Sahel.

Since 2017, Mali has witnessed 935 terrorist attacks, including 318 since January 2021, and terrorists have taken hostages from Mali and neighboring countries to demand ransoms, which constitute a source of financing, according to the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), the most famous of which is the kidnapping of the Colombian nun Gloria Cecilia Narváez in 2017, and the French journalist Olivier Dubois. 2021, and the abduction of village heads, clan leaders, journalists and government employees.

leadership struggle

Researchers believe that the clashes between Al-Qaeda and ISIS in the Great Sahara are part of the terrorist organizations’ struggle for influence around the world, from Afghanistan in the east to Mauritania in the west.

The Sahara and Sahel region is important because it is one of the largest sources of funding based on smuggling, robbery and ransom.

The researcher at the American “Rand Center” for Security Consulting, Michael Shurkin, told “Sky News Arabia”: The escalation of the conflict is a strong warning to the governments and countries supporting them, especially since the group “Supporting Islam and Muslims” aims to control northern and central Mali.

Shurkin explained the escalation of the conflict between ISIS and al-Qaeda by saying that the latter does not want an ideological competitor in the region that expands in front of it with the decline in the presence of French forces.

The Support of Islam and Muslims group relies on establishing its feet and expanding on the basis that its components are from the local population, unlike ISIS, in which foreign elements abound, with little experience in the terrain and conditions of the region, and weak relations with the population.

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