Today in Terrorism: 1 November 2016 ISIS affiliate attack in Democratic Republic of Congo

There appears to be an ISIS affiliate in the DRC that is carrying out terrorist acts

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a huge central African country that is both blessed and cursed. It has abundant natural resources, including deposits of cobalt, copper, diamond, tantalum, tin, gold and coltan, the latter of which is a critical component in many of the electronic devices (cellphones, computers) we have come to rely upon.

It is unfortunately also plagued with massive violence, ranging from the spillover from the 1994 Rwandan genocide to armed gangs, rapes and the Tutsi-dominated M-23 movement. The country also suffers from ebola outbreaks and the government in far-away Kinshasa is under tremendous pressure to deal with all these issues simultaneously.

Rebels sit in a truck as they patrol a street in Sake, eastern DR Congo - 21 November 2012
Members of M-23 (Photo: Reuters)

To this we now have to add what may be an Islamic State (ISIS) ‘affiliate’: the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). The group appears to go back as far as 1995 where it sought to overthrow the government of Ugandan leader Yoweri Museveni. More recently, now deceased ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi spoke of a ‘Central African’ province – ISIS calls these affiliates ‘wilayat’ (Arabic for ‘province) – although the reality seemed at first a little more tenuous. Was there really an ISIS-inspired (or led) terrorist organisation in eastern DRC?

The doubts seem to be applicable no longer. The ADF is believed responsible for 15 terrorist incidents since 2018, including one on this day in 2016 in which six civilians (two men and four women) were killed in North Kivu province. ADF terrorists also attacked a medical centre and made off with drugs.

Image result for adf drc
Supposed members of the ADF with their leader Musa Baluku (centre)

It is important not to overemphasise the importance of what may or not be a true ISIS affiliate in Africa. That continent has enough jihadi groups capable of much higher levels of violence (Boko Haram in Nigeria; Al Shabaab in Somalia, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb; various other terrorist organisations in the Sahel, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia and West Africa). I would classify this one as worthy of a ‘watching brief’, much as I would a group called Al Shabaab in northern Mozambique (no relation to the Somali group of the same name).

Still, the DRC is already up to its eyeballs in violence. An ISIS clone is not a wanted addition.