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ISIS Affiliates Turning Africa into New Jihadist Battleground

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More than a year after the defeat of ISIS in Syria, the Islamic terror group is turning its sights on Africa. 

The continent is currently witnessing a spree of terror attacks inspired by ISIS-affiliated groups.

On November 6, a CIA officer, formerly of the Navy's elite SEAL Team 6, was killed in an explosion set off by the Somali-based Islamic terror group al-Shabaab. 

The CIA operative, along with four Somali officers, reportedly died during a raid on the group's suspected hideout south of Mogadishu.

Four days later, on November 10, ISIS-linked fighters behead 50 people in a soccer stadium in northeast Mozambique. 

Then on November 29th, Boko Haram Islamic fighters slaughter 110 Nigerian farmers, men and women, attacked in their rice fields. 

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Steve Killelea tracks terror around the globe for the Australia-based Institute for Economics and Peace. 

He tells CBN News that the center of gravity for ISIS and other Islamic terror organizations is clearly moving.

"Sub-Saharan Africa now has a higher number of people killed through terrorism than in the Middle East and North Africa," Killelea, founder of Institute for Economics and Peace, told CBN News from his office in Sydney, Australia.

Killelea's group publishes the annual Global Terrorism Index. 

He says while the death toll from terrorism around the world has dropped, Islamic terror attacks in Africa are surging.

"When we look at the ten countries with the largest increases in deaths from terrorism, seven of those countries are in sub-Saharan Africa," said Killelea.

Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Niger, Cameroon, and Ethiopia among those witnessing a spike in attacks this year.

The State Department's head for counter-terrorism, Ambassador Nathan Sales, telling reporters during a digital press conference what it is that drives this wave of terror, whether in Nigeria or Mozambique.

"What we are seeing today is a committed ISIS affiliate that embraces the ISIS ideology, that embraces the ISIS tactics and procedures, that embraces the ISIS vision of caliphate with territorial control," noted Amb. Sales.

And the jihadist groups are recruiting followers. 

10 percent of those recently surveyed across 14 countries said they'd been approached by radical Islamic groups.

"There are a couple of hundred million Muslim Africans and if only zero point zero one percent are tempted by extremism that's still several hundred thousand people we may have to worry about," Michael O'Hanlon with Brookings Institute told CBN News.

Nigeria sits at the epicenter. 
"Nigeria is where the most lethal and most active external Islamic State province is located," Jacob Zenn, Africa analyst for Jamestown Foundation, told CBN News.

Zenn writes extensively on Boko Haram, the Nigeria-based Islamic terror group. 

According to the Global Terrorism Index, Boko Haram, which has pledged allegiance to ISIS, has been responsible for more than 57 thousand deaths since 2011.

"They [ISIS] are very active in Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Cameroon, in that border region, and their increasing capability over the past few years has been alarming," warned Zenn.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, now Africa's Most Wanted man, wants to turn Nigeria Islamic, and force Christians, half its population, to either leave, convert to Islam or die.

"This is the most important country in Africa, the 10th largest oil reserves in the world, {and} the largest economy on the continent," said Johnnie Moore, co-author of the new book, The Next Jihad.

Moore told CBN News that what's happening in Nigeria is nothing short of Christian genocide.

"It's the exact same playbook that ISIS used against Christians and Yazidis in Iraq," Moore said. "In fact, you might say that Boko Haram was the test case even before ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Boko Haram was already killing more people, Christians in fact than ISIS did at their height in Iraq and Syria."

It led the State Department last week to call out Nigeria for failing to stem the religious persecution, the first time a democracy has ever been cited for violating religious freedom.

"It's one thing when North Korea does or when Iran does this, but this is a democracy, there has to be rule of law in the country," Moore told CBN News.

And lack of security is a chief factor fueling the jihadist movement.

"Many of the African countries have very weak governments which means there is frustration among many of their people and there's also difficulty in providing security so the government doesn't have the ability to find and stamp out these kinds of extremist groups," said O'Hanlon.

With terrorism increasing, State Department officials insist African governments need to focus on confronting violent extremism. 

25 active Islamist groups now operate on the continent. That's up from just five to ten years ago.

According to The Intercept, the U.S has 29 military bases across Africa, almost all engaged in the fight against extremist Islamic groups.

"Our emphasis in boosting counter-terrorism capabilities, not only in Africa but around the world, is to bolster law enforcement and border security and countering the financing of terrorism capabilities to really defeat the ideology that inspires people to embrace radicalism and violence," said Amb. Sales.

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About The Author

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Born in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and of Indian descent, CBN News’ Senior International Correspondent and Co-Anchor, George Thomas, has been traveling the globe for more than 20 years, finding the stories of people, conflicts, and issues that must be told. He has reported from more than 100 countries and has had a front-row seat to numerous global events of our day. George’s stories of faith, struggle, and hope combine the expertise of a seasoned journalist with the inspiration of a deep calling to tell the stories of the people behind the news. “I’ve always liked discovering & exploring new