Anxiety in West Africa over release of 6000 ISIS fighters
The African Union’s Commissioner for Peace and Security, Smail Chergui, has called on African countries to cooperate in supervising the return of the terrorists into their various countries as the Islamic State, (ISIS) is defeated and the fighters dispersed.
“There are reports of 6,000 African fighters among the 30,000 foreign elements who joined this terrorist group in the Middle East,” Chergui said at a meeting in Algiers, Sunday, 10 December.
“The return of these elements to Africa poses a serious threat to our national security and stability and requires specific treatment and intense cooperation between African countries,” he warned.
Mr. John Enweliku, an expert on security matters expresses his anxiety at the development saying the fighters could bring their extremist Islamic ideology and violence with them and that, he says, is a cause for “great” worry.
“Nigeria is sitting on a time bomb with this development. Boko Haram alone has caused lots of trouble and we have yet to fully overcome them. Should the returning fighters join the sect, there would be more trouble.” Enweliku said.
Enweliku said considering “the problem we’re already facing with Boko Haram. The returning fighters would likely join Boko Haram. All the security agencies, as well as the AU and ECOWAS, have to start doing something about the development. Troops must be deployed in the borders because Nigeria’s borders are very porous.” He advised.
Future Advanced Research, an Abu Dhabi based organisation in the United Arab Emirates, said ISIS has an expanding network in Africa, especially Central and West Africa, where Boko Haram activities have led to the death of about 100,000 people and the displacement of 2.3 million.
Boko Haram declared its Islamic Caliphate in the predominantly Christian communities and villages in north-eastern Nigeria and a majority of those killed in the nearly decade of insurgency are Christians.
We have every reason to be concerned about this development as a church and as Christians in northern Nigeria. Ven. Mark Mukan, the Mission operational director in the north-eastern region of Nigeria said to Global Christian news, “we see what has happened to Christians in northern Iraq, Syria and Lybia. We must begin to raise the alarm and pressurise regional governments to raise to the occasion.” He said.
Pedro Ayandokun, head of a private security firm in Nigeria, said there was a high likelihood that most of the 6,000 returning fighters were coming to Nigeria, where Boko Haram operates. “The most appropriate thing to
do is for the AU and the Economic Community of West African States to convene a regional security meeting to find a solution to the potential threat.” He said.
In March 2015, the Boko Haram sect pledged allegiance to ISIS, thereby becoming the latter’s largest affiliate in the world.
An official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, speaking to Saturday PUNCH, said, “I think the issue will be discussed when the leaders discuss terrorism at the event.” At the meeting African Union which held in Abuja over the weekend.
ECOWAS Commission spokesperson, Dotscof Liberor, suggested that member countries would likely be to forming a regional collaboration to counter the threat.
Hassan John is West Africa Editor, GCN and Priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos.
Image Credits: CC Google Images/Smail Cergui/ISIS/Boko Haram propaganda video