Islamic State and Al-Qaeda clash in Sahel
Islamic State and Al-Qaeda have clashed in the Sahel, fracturing a period of cooperation that has held for years. The rivals have squared off in other theatres before, such as in Syria. But they have often worked in tandem in the Sahel, coordinating attacks, and even swapping fighters.
The semi-desert African region have for years seen conflict with Islamic militants, who first emerged in northern Mali in 2012 before integrating into the center of the country and neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.
Thousands of soldiers and civilians have lost their lives and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes. Frequent clashes between Al-Qaeda and Islamic State affiliates appear to have escalated into full-blown combat in central Mali and Burkina Faso since the beginning of the year.
The disputes over territorial expansion or access to fodder crops are said to be the reasons behind the clash besides. Mahamat Saleh Annadif, the United Nations special representative in Mali, said that the jihadist civil war is “no longer a secret”. “We don’t know where it’s going to end, each one wants to get the upper hand over the other,” he said, explaining that the groups are fighting over land.
Al-Qaeda now under an alliance named GSIM first emerged in northern Mali in 2012 and then established itself in central Mali in 2015.
The Islamic State group’s history in the region is shorter. Islamic militant Abou Walid Al-Sahraoui founded the region’s franchise in 2015, and it is now active in the border regions linking Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.