Alleged Militant Islamists released a video on Wednesday claiming to have landed in Tanzania to commence operations in the visibly peaceful, terror free state.
The poor quality video showed about a half dozen masked jihadists who allege they are in Tanzania’s coastal region of Tanga. In the footage, they called on all Muslims across the East African state to join their campaign.
A Twitter account promoting the five-minute-long video says they are the East African branch of the Islamic State (IS) group. But there is no evidence of a direct link to the one main IS in Middle East and it is unclear how large the group is in the region. This raises some concern about the risk from the presence and potential expansion of the Islamic State on the African continent.
The country’s neighbours, Kenya and Uganda, have since last 3 years or more seen growth in the number of deaths caused by such groups. In fact, last year it was reported that the number of people killed by African militant groups was as large, if not larger, than the number of people killed by ISIS in the Middle East.
But the region’s second biggest economy, Tanzania, has largely been a beacon of stability and peace in the region.
A report some years back states that larger share of Tanzania’s population (35%) is Muslim than neighbors Kenya (7%) and Uganda (12%) – making it somewhat terror prone. ISIL seeks to co-opt existing terrorist groups, as well as local insurgencies.
It also works to ensure it expands its network and advance its agenda in the continent and beyond, with eight of the United Nation’s largest peacekeeping operations located in Africa as well as the growing terrorist threat. Last year, Nigeria’s Boko Haram declared an affiliation with ISIS – changing its name last year to Islamic State West Africa Province – an act which raised the specter that terrorist groups around will start to change their focus and shift to more international targets.
The spread of Boko Haram in Nigeria over the last few years has concentrated the world to the dangers of ignoring early signs of terrorism across Africa. This is because the group was underestimated by the president as a bunch of disaffected thugs committing robberies and individual attacks. They were only taken seriously when they began killing thousands of people and pledging allegiance to ISIS.