ISIS–West Africa flag
One of ISIS’s largest and most powerful regional branches, ISIS–West Africa controls broad swaths of territory and has killed or displaced thousands of people in Nigeria and neighboring countries. It formed in 2015, when ISIS publicly accepted a pledge of allegiance from the Nigeria-based terrorist group Boko Haram, establishing it as ISIS–West Africa.
ISIS–West Africa rejects national borders and seeks to discredit regional governments and eventually replace them with an ISIS-style state. It also fights against Boko Haram, which was revived in mid-2016 when some of its fighters separated from ISIS–West Africa. The group promotes sectarian violence and exploits poor economic conditions and social divisions to attract members. It receives funding from ISIS core and local revenue sources, including kidnappings-for-ransom, taxation, and extortion.
Based primarily in northeastern Nigeria, group claimed operational expansion into central and southwestern Nigerian states of Kogi, Taraba, and Kaduna by early 2022; conducts operations throughout the Lake Chad Basin region of Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria
Between 4,000 to 5,000 fighters
TACTICS AND TARGETS
ISIS–West Africa employs ambushes, military-style assaults, roadside bombs, kidnappings, and targeted killings. The group focuses most of its attacks on regional military targets and civilian defense forces but also frequently attacks government personnel and infrastructure, foreign aid workers, Christians, and other civilians whom it perceives as working against the group or opposing its interpretation of Islamic law. ISIS–West Africa equips its fighters with small arms, light and heavy machine guns, vehicle-mounted weapons, rocket-propelled grenades, mines, rockets, and improvised explosive devices.
FOREIGN TERRORIST GROUP DESIGNATION
The US State Department designated ISIS–West Africa as a foreign terrorist organization in February 2018. Longtime leader Abu Musab al-Barnawi and former amir Abu Abdullahi Umar al-Barnawi were named Specially Designated Global Terrorists in February 2018 and September 2019, respectively.