Crisis Group Warns of Boost to Islamic State in African Redoubt

Islamic State could be reinforced in one of its last strongholds in Africa as a result of vigilante groups fueling local grievances, a crisis-prevention organization warned.

The rise of anti-jihadist groups in Niger’s northern Tillabery region risks providing the Islamist militant organization with additional recruits, according to Washington-based International Crisis Group.

Niger should learn from neighboring Burkina Faso and Mali where the emergence of local militias has pushed civilians to join either jihadists or self-defense groups, the nonprofit said in a report Friday. Authorities should “discourage vigilante group formation, which has spurred violence, and mediate communal disputes that fuel armed group recruitment,” it said.

An increasingly deadly Islamist insurgency is rocking Niger, the fifth-biggest exporter of uranium globally, raising fears of militants expanding their reach across a region that’s already headed for its deadliest year of Islamist violence in a decade.

France has deployed a 5,100-strong force to fight the Islamist militants in Niger and neighboring countries, while the U.S. has a $110 million drone base in the nation’s desert town of Agadez.

The surge in violence comes amid a fresh military takeover in Mali -- the second in nine months -- that threatens to further destabilize a nation that’s a linchpin in international efforts to contain a mushrooming insurgency by Islamist militants in the Sahel region.

An affiliate known as the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, operating along Niger’s border with Mali, is increasingly targeting civilians, fueling concerns that local self-defense militias are engaging in the fight against the jihadists, International Crisis Group said.

Niger’s recently inaugurated President Mohamed Bazoum told French broadcaster France 24 in an interview days before he took office last month that the lack of success in curbing the violence “is the failure of all of us and the failure of the whole coalition.”

Germany and Canada are among other nations participating in the United Nations’ peacekeeping operations in Mali. Forces from the five most-affected countries -- Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Mali, collectively known as the G5 Sahel -- are also trying to secure the area.

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