World Report: ISIS Growing in Africa

Libya may be replacing Syria and Iraq as the top military priority – especially for Europeans.  But, what other countries are hubs for the violent “Daesh?” Plus: A quick guide to terms you’ve heard, but may not understand.

By: Brandon Davis, PoliticKING with Larry King

Things aren’t cooling down regarding ISIS; at least that’s what TIME Magazine’s March 7 issue reports.  In a brief article by Tara John, TIME reports that the U.S. is scaling up military operations against ISIS’s affiliate group in Libya.  After the fall of the Gaddafi regime, the political condition in Libya has been heavily monitored for increasing instability.  The article assess that members of the Libya branch could number over 6,500 fighters in the country.  It does not say how many are ideologically committed, and how many were forced to join, but the number would be more than double a December report from the United Nations.

Recent Activity

Feb. 19, U.S. made air strikes at an ISIS training camp.

43 people killed, likely including a high level operative known to have helped organize attacks in Tunisia.

Feb. 22, the nation of Italy said that it would allow the U.S. to launch drone attacks on Libya from a Sicilian air base. [Libya’s coast is just 300 miles from Italy and has caused concern among Western governments.]


With the terrorist group growing in parts of Africa, how important is it to understand the basics?  Here’s a crash course in discerning important Arabic terms, and the key areas where ISIS and its affiliates are gaining strength in northern Africa.

First Things First: Basic Motives

To understand ISIS, you need to understand what a “caliphate” is.  Islamic Supremacist organizations like ISIS often become known for atrocities such as, the execution of Muslims who do not submit to the “Caliph,” and the ethnic cleansing or sexual slavery of non-Muslims.  The ISIS Caliphate is a plan for imposing a totalitarian system to deprive non-Muslims of rights.  More specifically, the caliphate is based on a Caliph, a person considered the religious successor to the Islamic prophet, Muhammad, and therefore a leader to the entire Muslim community. In this case that would be, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

That’s where the word, Daesh, comes in.  It is an adapted acronym of their Arabic name -Dawlat al-Islamiyah f'al-Iraq w Belaad al-Sham– which is similar to another Arabic word - das - meaning 'to trample down' or 'crush'. ISIS hears it as a challenge to their legitimacy:  a dismissal of their aspirations to define Islamic practice, to be 'a state for all Muslims.'  When French President, Francois Hollande, addressed the nation in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, he vowed that France "will be unforgiving with the barbarians from Daesh."  ISIS hates it so much, in fact, that they have reportedly threatened to cut out the tongues of anyone who uses it in public.

Spread of an Ideology:

The U.N report also states that " Libya is strategically important for ISIL, in view of its geographical location at the crossroads between the Middle East, Africa and Europe.  Owing to the current political and security challenges the country faces, resulting in a weakened national security apparatus, the country is also viewed as a potential retreat and operational zone for ISIL fighters unable to reach the Middle East.  The ISIL central command in Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic views Libya as the “best” opportunity to expand its so-called caliphate."


The terrorist group has taken control of over 150 miles of coastline from its base in Sirte,

Over 6,500 members, including senior operatives from Syria and new recruits from militants in Niger, and a cell in Mali.

Feb. 24, militants stormed the western city of Sabratha and beheaded 12 security officers.

Feb. 18, a related cell in neighboring Morocco was caught on plotting a chemical attack.

Algerian affiliates are also increasingly active.


The most active insurgent group in Egypt, Sinai Provence, pledged allegiance to ISIS in the latter part of 2014.  They have carried out frequent attacks on security forces in Sinai and Cairo.

The group also claimed the beheading of a Croatian man in August.

The same group planted a bomb on a Russian jet, killing 224 in October.


Islamist extremist group, Boko Haram, proclaimed allegiance to ISIS in 2015.

The group did lose some land in the months since, but continues to make deadly attacks in northern Nigeria, Chad, and Cameroon.

Continued Action 

These regions will continue to be monitored.  President Obama’s administration is now considering sustained military action in Libya.  Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said during a hearing last week that U.S. forces were "contemplating a pretty massive air assault."  Patience is running thin, and speculation remains that if a national government is not agreed upon soon, Italy may push a plan to split Libya into three mini-states.

Editor’s Notes

Ruth Sherlock, U.S. Editor for The Telegraph, reported March 5 that the U.S. is planning to strike ISIL in Libya based on ‘faulty intelligence.’  This would include some of the data reported by TIME, such as member population in Libya.

The AP now uses phrases like "the Islamic State group," or "fighters from the Islamic State group," to avoid phrasing that sounds like they could be fighting for an internationally recognized state.

For more information, check out Off The Grid's interview with Joby Warrick, author of "Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS" below:

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.

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