MS Risk Blog

Assessment on US Travel Warning for Five Mexican States

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Key judgements:

  • The legalization of marijuana in various states of the United States will lead the cartels to move their production to harder drugs such as methamphetamine, heroin or fentanyl, which will cause an increase in the demand for opium. In the short to medium term, it is highly likely the increase in violence in Guerrero, where opium production is concentrated.
  • The beheading of the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas Vieja Escuela in Tamaulipas augurs a probable division of both organizations into smaller bands, which would increase the violence in that state, although it would give greater power to the newly created Northeast Cartel to control the territory.
  • The beheading of the big cartels has led to a decentralization of criminal activity, causing an uncontrolled increase in violence.
  • The emergence and rapid growth of the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación is one of the keys to understanding the sudden increase in violence in recent years, due to its open conflict with the Sinaloa Cartel.


The United States Department of State issued its travel recommendations for the entire globe on January 10, 2018. Although most of the states of Mexico have been part of the list, it is the first time in history that five of its territories have the highest degree of danger by the US State Department, 4 of 4, putting those regions at the same level of danger as countries at war like Afghanistan, Syria or Yemen. The recommendation of the US Government is to avoid visiting the five affected states, Colima, Guerrero, Michoacán, Sinaloa and Tamaulipas.


The rise of these five states to the highest level of danger in the US travel recommendation system is due to a large increase in violence in these territories caused by confrontations between small criminal gangs and the territorial disputes between the existing large drug cartels and the remnants of extinct cartels. Since former President Felipe Calderón launched the “War on Drugs” in December 2006, which has lasted for two six-year periods, there have been more than 234,000 deaths, and led to the demise of most of the existing cartels at the beginning from the war. However, the elimination of the cartel’s leadership has not led to its dissolution, but to its decentralization, giving rise to hundreds of small criminal gangs with conflicting interests, which has triggered the levels of violence in Mexico.


To better understand the reasons that have led the United States to apply the highest degree of danger to five Mexican states, it is convenient to analyze each of the states separately.


Despite being the least populated state in Mexico, Colima has one of the most important ports in the Pacific zone of Mexico, Puerto Manzanillo, where two million containers pass through each year. This port is a strategic point for drug trafficking because it is a point of entry for cocaine and ephedrine from Colombia and China. Violence in Colima skyrocketed when the Sinaloa Cartel arrived to fight its former allies, the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG by its initials in Spanish) that controls the state, and dispute control of Puerto Manzanillo. This dispute is the reason for the increase in violence in Colima and the reason why this small state has the highest homicide rate in the entire country, with 70.6 murders per 100 000 inhabitants.


The state of Guerrero was once a tourist paradise, where the greatest stars of Hollywood summered and where the Kennedys celebrated their honeymoon, but the violence in the state raised when security forces killed the leader of the Beltrán and Levya cartel, which held control of the state, which led to its disintegration in more than a score of criminal gangs that today dispute the territory, some of them are Guerreros Unidos, Los Tequileros, Los Rojos or Los Ardillos. Guerrero is an opium production area, raw material to produce heroin, and its proximity to smuggling routes to the US border makes Guerrero a target for gangs and cartels.


Michoacán is a key state to understand the war against drugs in Mexico. The birth state of former President Felipe Calderón, with the beginning of the war against drugs, nearly 7,000 soldiers were sent to Michoacán to fight the dominant cartel in the region, La Familia Michoacana. Michoacán is the largest producer of methamphetamine for its subsequent export to the United States, and has the most important port on the Mexican Pacific coast, the port of Lázaro Cárdenas. Since members of La Familia Michoacana split up to form the cartel of Los Caballeros Templarios, impunity in the state has been widespread. The ineffectiveness of the Government in fighting the cartels led to the creation of the first self-defense militias in La Ruana, Tepalcatepec and Buenavista. These militias have been a problem for the Mexican government, due to the continuous clashes between them, the inability of the authorities to control them, and their refusal to disarm voluntarily. After the beheading of La Familia Michoacana and Los Caballeros Templarios, in Michoacán there are remnants of both cartels, the self-defense militias confronting each other, and the newly created La Nueva Familia Michoacana cartel, at war with the CJNG for the control of Michoacán and the port of Lázaro Cárdenas.


The original state of the famous Sinaloa Cartel, it is not the main producer of any drug, although it has extensive plantations of marijuana and opium. But what they specialized in the Sinaloa Cartel is in the organization of their smuggling routes, especially across the border with the United States. Since the extradition on January 19, 2018 of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, alias “El Chapo Guzmán”, an internal struggle within the cartel arose between the chief of security of El Chapo, Dámaso López Núñez, alias “El Licenciado” and the two sons of El Chapo. This internal dispute increased the rates of violence in the state of Sinaloa, and even after the arrest of Núñez, the sons of El Chapo still face obstacles to fully control the cartel.


The state closest to the United States, since it shares a border with Texas, is home to the oldest cartel in Mexico, the Gulf Cartel, whose founder, Juan Nepomuceno Guerra, trafficked with alcohol during the years of the Prohibition, later creating the cartel in the 1980s. In 1999, former military officer Arturo Guzmán Decena began working for the cartel’s leader, Osiel Cárdenas Guillén, and began recruiting former special forces soldiers to create the Zetas, the armed wing of the cartel that would take care of the protection of leaders and territories, as well as executions and kidnappings. Eventually, and after an increase in its weight within the organization, the Zetas splintered from the Gulf Cartel in 2010 and began a bloody war against the same for control of the territory that lasts until today. Over the years, both the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel have suffered several internal fractures and there are diverse factions on both sides, which continue the war between them, mainly in the state of Tamaulipas, and to a lesser extent in Nuevo León and Coahuila. The irruption of the Northeastern Cartel has been key in the increase of violence in Tamaulipas, as it is an additional actor to those already existing. The Mexican security forces managed to shoot down the leaders of two of the most important factions in the area, Pancho Carreón from the Zetas Vieja Escuela, and Juan Manuel Loza, known as Comandante Toro, leader of the Gulf Clan.


In Colima, the incursion of the Sinaloa Cartel to dispute control of the Port of Manzanillo to the CJNG threatens to keep Colima as the deadliest state in Mexico, as the importance of this port for the entry of narcotics is of vital interest to the cartels. The growing hostilities between the two cartels will attract smaller gangs, which will suppose an increase in crime in the territory of Colima.

The increase in the demand for opium by the cartels to compensate their losses due to the legalization of marijuana in certain states of the United States, will make Guerrero the battle center of the cartels to control the production of opium, abundant in the state, thus it is likely an increase in hostilities in the state, and the incursion of more criminal gangs is highly probable.

To the already existing confrontations in the state of Michoacán, it is necessary to add the appearance of a new cartel, self-named La Nueva Familia Michoacana, which has declared war on the CJNG for the control of the territory, which will increase the rate of violence in the state.

Violence in Sinaloa is due to the internal struggles the Sinaloa Cartel experienced after the capture and extradition to the United States of El Chapo Guzmán. It is likely that once Guzman’s sons regain control of the cartel, the violence will diminish after a period of transition.

The irruption of the Northeast Cartel in the state of Tamaulipas was the reason for the drastic increase in violence in that region, but the beheading of the Zejas Vieja Escuela and the Gulf Cartel could diminish the activity of both in favor of the Northeast Cartel or, on the contrary, cause the disintegration of these factions in smaller ones that increase the conflict in the state.

None of the two major wars against drugs undertaken by the governments of Ronald Reagan in the United States more than 45 years ago, and by Felipe Calderón in 2006, have been able to stop the growing violence in Mexico. The war against drugs launched by Felipe Calderón had as its core mission to eliminate the cartels leaders, who had a hierarchy based on family ties, and promotions and rewards based on loyalty; something that led the authorities to think that, beheading the cartels, they would disappear. This did not happen, but led to the decentralization of criminal activity, leading to the creation of a multitude of small criminal gangs that adapted to the war the government maintained against them; now organized crime is not based on old blood ties, but is divided into different cells that collaborate with each other, but act independently and without showing loyalty to larger organizations, so the effect of losing a cell by police action does not affect the criminal network, and the amount of information that cell could bring to the police is less.

The irruption of the CJNG in the Mexican scenario has led to a drastic increase in violence, due to the open war with the only other major cartel standing, the Sinaloa Cartel, for the control of all regions of Mexico, which has led the war to places that have never witnessed the violence of the rest of the country like Cancun.

The proof that all these factors have triggered the violence in Mexico is that 2017 was the year with the highest number of murders registered, 23,101 in the absence of December data. Another scabrous fact is the number of journalists murdered in Mexico that in 2017 amounts to 81 deaths, less than the 120 in 2016, but which place the country as the most dangerous in the world to practice the journalistic profession.

Growing Tensions Between Pro-Russian Moldavan President and Pro-Western Parliament

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Tensions during the last three months between President Igor Dodon and the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova have escalated dramatically since Moldova and Russia have been embroiled in a series of political rows in 2017 leading to Moldovia recalling their ambassador from Russia on 18 December. Dodon is a vocal supporter of Russia and an opponent of his country’s relations with the European Union and NATO. Dodon has vowed to take Moldova into the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union, which includes Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Armenia and revoke Moldova’s association agreement with the European Union (EU).  The Moldovan parliament has taken a more pro-western stance and has been moving towards closer relations with the EU. Dodon has intentionally refused to carry out his required duties as president whenever the legislation or appointment would not favor a closer Russian-Moldovan relationship. On three occasions since October 2017, the Moldovan Constitutional Court has had to temporarily suspend Dodon from power to enact legally passed legislation, or ministerial appointments, by the Chisinau-based government.

On 5 January the court suspended Dodon’s power to enact legislation that would restrict Russian television broadcasts as foreign propaganda. Previously, the court ruled that Dodon can veto a bill only once and must approve the legislation if passed again. Dodon refused to comply with the judicial ruling and was found to be in violation of his duties. Lawmakers say the bill would prevent the dissemination of what they describe as “fake news” on foreign channels and would ban television channels from airing news and analytical programs from countries that have not signed up to a European broadcasting agreement, such as Russia.

On 2 January the court suspended Dodon’s powers due to a disagreement between him and the pro-Western government over ministerial appointments. Dodon had earlier blocked the government’s choice of new ministers in a reshuffle, accusing the nominees of incompetence and saying some had links to a notorious scandal in which around $1 billion was siphoned out of the Moldavan banking system.

On 24 October the Moldovan Constitutional Court ruled that Dodon could be temporarily suspended over his failure to fulfill his constitutional duties and for causing an institutional deadlock for his refusal to appoint Eugen Sturza as defence minister. Dodon refused to approve Sturza because he said the 32-year-old did not have the proper experience to serve as defence minister.

On December 21 Dodon told his supporters to refrain from “revolution” and wait for the upcoming elections next year to oust the current government because he has seen what revolutions can do in other countries. However, it is important to note that Russia has used the perceived perception of persecution of Russian minorities in former Soviet Union republics as an excuse for military action. It is possible that the underlying context of this statement was more of a veiled threat against the Chisinau government than a genuine plea to Dodon’s supporters.

Security Advisory: Yemen, Red Sea, Bab-al-Mandab

Posted on in Yemen title_rule


10 January 2018: Overnight, the Houthi movement in Yemen threatened to block the Red Sea shipping lane if the Saudi led coalition continues its push north toward the port of Hodeidah. Houthi Political Council Chief, Saleh al-Samad, the latter was quoted as saying, “If the aggressors keep pushing towards Hodeidah and if the political solution hits wall, there are some strategic choices that will be taken as a no return point, including blocking the international navigation in the Red Sea.” The report provided no specific details of how they would enact this threat. However, the Bab-al Mandab, which connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden is the most likely target.

Since January 2017, the Saudi coalition has been engaged in Operation Golden Spear, an offensive aimed at recapturing Yemen’s western coast from Houthi forces and denying them access to key Red Sea ports. Hodeidah port is the final maritime stronghold for the Houthi rebels, and is critical to both the rebel group and Yemeni government. Hodeidah port receives 80% of Yemen’s imports, including vital food and medical aid necessary to support civilians in what has become the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.

However, reports indicate the Houthis have relied on the port to smuggle in Iranian-made weapons to maintain their offensive against the Yemeni government. The Saudi-led coalition has conducted ground and air campaigns in the areas around the port, but have conducted comparatively few targets against the port itself, relenting to urgent warnings by allies and UN member states.

The UN has been working to bring the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels together for peace negotiations. However, on 4 December, the Houthis assassinated their former ally, Former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, causing a shutdown of all negotiation attempts. Saleh, who had aligned with the Houthi rebels throughout the war, had formally broken ties with the group on 2 December, two days before his death. Saleh was believed to be a vital component of resolution to the years-long war; it was believed he could broker a deal between the rebels and the Yemeni government.

Following Saleh’s assassination, the Saudi Coalition closed all land, air and sea ports, resulting in a vacuum of critical food, gas, and medical supplies to the stricken country. Once again at the urging of the UN and allies, the Coalition reopened many ports, with a temporary reopening of Hodeidah port beginning on 20 December and lasting 30 days.

The warning from the Houthis came during a meeting with Deputy UN envoy to Yemen, Maeen Shureim, who travelled to meet with Houthi leaders and set the stage for another round of peace negotiations. On Monday, Houthi Chief al- Samad criticised UN efforts to resolve the war in Yemen. “We’ve come to a stage where we don’t care anymore about the role of the UN in solving the crisis in Yemen,” al-Samad was quoted as saying.

On Tuesday, the United Arab Emirates minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, said “The Houthi who decimated crops and seeds, destroyed Yemen, betrayed his ally and partner, is now threatening the international navigation; we are facing a terrorist gang that the end of its existence in Yemen is nigh.”

Implications: Intentions and Capabilities:

The threat to block international navigation in the Red Sea is critical. Although the Red Sea contains chokeholds in the north and south, the Suez Canal, nearly 1700 miles away and heavily guarded by Egyptian security forces, is a logistically unlikely target. It is highly likely that the Houthis would intend to target the Bab al Mandab Strait.

At just 20 miles across at its widest point, the strait is a chokepoint for maritime vessels entering or exiting the waterways. Under an international traffic separation scheme, northbound shipping uses a two-mile wide lane on the Arabian side of the strait, while southbound traffic uses a lane on the African side. The lanes are mainly for use by commercial vessels, but are largely ignored by smaller local ships or fishing boats. More than 60 commercial vessels transit the strait each day, alongside passenger cruise liners. Bab-al-Mandab is also one of the most important trade routes for oil tankers; between four and five million barrels of oil pass through the strait annually, mostly heading to Europe. Together, the area and vitality of this waterway combine to make the strait a valuable—and easy—target, potentially threatening hundreds of vessels.

The Houthis have displayed a means to conduct attacks in the Bab-al-Mandab waterway; in March 2017, a Yemeni coast guard vessel struck a naval mine in the vicinity of Mokha port, killing two soldiers and wounding eight. The attack was the first recorded instance of the use of naval mines since the war began. Security officials believed that the mine was planted by Houthi rebels, and reports circulated that the rebels may have placed naval mines around Mokha port to disrupt Coalition operations. Warnings were also issued that the Houthi rebels could deploy aquatic mines in the waters around Hodeidah port as they prepare to defend their control of the Hodeidah governorate.

The rebels have conducted other attacks near Bab-al-Mandab strait using means apart from naval mines. In October 2016, Houthi rebels claimed an attack which destroyed a UAE catamaran in the Strait. Later that month, LNG gas tanker Galicia Spirit was attacked by unknown assailants near Perim Island, approximately eight miles from the Yemeni Coast, in Bab al-Mandab Strait. In January 2017, Saudi warship Al-Madinah was attacked west of Hodeidah port, leaving two crew members dead. It was later determined that the attack had been conducted via a remotely controlled drone device, launched and controlled from Hodeidah port.

The coalition has been conducting searches aboard vessels entering Yemeni ports and reinforced security on land and at airports, however the Houthis do not show any signs of lacking the arsenal necessary to continue their insurgency in Yemen. The recapture of Mokha port from the Houthi rebels in February 2017 uncovered hidden caches of weapons; it is likely that Houthi rebels have additional stockpiles in other areas across Yemen, and are being supplemented through still unidentified smuggling routes.

In December, UN secretary general Antonio Guterres warned that Iran may be defying a call to halt ballistic missile development, and may have been transferring these weapons to the Houthi rebels in Yemen. In November 2017, a ballistic missile fired by the Houthis into Riyadh, Saudi Arabia had Iranian markings, according to a US Air Force official in the Middle East.

It is believed that naval mines deployed by the Houthi rebels have made their way to Yemen through Iranian arms smuggling networks led by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), using extensive maritime smuggling networks. In March 2017, it was found that at least three IRGC front companies were identified in arms smuggling to Yemen, likely using maritime commercial supply chains to deliver weaponry. As access to Yemen ports has been impeded, the companies may be using sea ports outside of Yemen to smuggle weapons, which are then transferred overland to their final destination. This evidence indicates that the Houthis have the capability to disrupt maritime traffic through the waterway, and could likely target Bab-al-Mandab Strait in an effort to protect their hold on Hodeidah port.


While unmanned drone boats may likely target coalition warships, aquatic mines do not distinguish, and can cause harm to any vessel in the vicinity. The guidance issued by UKMTO on 1 February 2017 remains in place. Masters are urged to:

  • Increase vigilance
  • Maintain the furthest possible distance from the Yemen coast
  • Transit the Bab el Mandeb strait during daylight hours
  • Use the western Traffic Separation Scheme wherever possible.

In addition, ships are urged to prevent misidentification, transmit AIS, and register and comply with BMP4 guidance.

If a master believes he is in or near a mined area note the following immediate action drills:

  • Mount extra watches with binoculars and any other observation aids available
  • Watch for foreign objects, flotsam and suspect craft in the vicinity
  • Drill muster stations and abandon ship preparations
  • High state of readiness maintained at all times
  • Review cargo consignment for extra sensitivity or control measures
  • Plot friendly warships in proximity for distress options and identify if military minesweepers are active or inbound
  • Consider night operations, pilot meeting points, harbour entry/exit very carefully

If a mine strike is unavoidable then masters should issue distress signals on Channel 16 and attempt to strike bow-on to minimise casualties and ensure best chance of crew survival. Stern, glancing or flank strikes will enhance damage and accelerate any crisis.

If sea mines are confirmed in an area, then vessels must deviate from any route that would take them into the danger zone until verifiable clearance has completed.

Ecuador’s Vice-President Sentence to Six Year in Jail in Connection to the Odebrecht Scheme

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Ecuador’s Vice-President Jorge Glas has been sentenced to six years in jail in connection to corruption at Brazilian construction company Odebrecht. Prosecutors say Glas received $13.5m (£10.2m) in bribes from the company from 2012-2016 in exchange for contracts.
Glas, who had served as Vice-President since May 2013, was relieved of his duties by President Moreno on the 3rd August 2017 when corruption allegations against Glas first began, with judicial investigations beginning 3 days after. Moreno was unable to relieve him of his position however as Glas obtained the position of Vice-President through popular vote.

Glas was first detained on 3rd October 2017 in order to prevent him from fleeing the country, and he remained incarcerated until and throughout his trial. Charges were officially brought against Glas on 8th November, with the National Court beginning his trial on the 24th along with 12 others accused in relation to the Odebrecht scheme. On 15th December, Glas was sentenced to 6 years in jail having been found guilty of accepting bribes from Odebrecht, alongside 6 others including his Uncle who was also found to be guilty. During the trial, prosecutors say Glas received bribe payments via his Uncle, Ricardo Rivera.

Former President Rafael Correa has denounced the sentence, saying the courts have imprisoned “an innocent”, and believes the trial against Glas has been politically motivated. Glas’s defence council, Eduardo Loor, announced after the sentencing that he will be appealing the 6-year sentence, and has called it “barbaric”. Glas continues to protest his innocence.

On the 17th of December, the President of Ecuador’s National Assembly, Jose Salgado, announced the country would be going forward with impeachment hearings of Glas. Days later, after receiving unanimous backing, Ecuador’s National Courts paved the way to begin proceedings into the dismissal of Glas from his position as despite his sentence he was refusing to step down as Vice-President. On the 27th, the impeachment of Glas took place, with Glas having 5 days to present written or oral exculpatory evidence to defend himself. The impeachment was, in the end, unnecessary in the removal of Glas from his position. On the 2nd January 2018 under Ecuador’s Constitution’s Article 146, Glas was stripped of his position after being unable to exercise his office for 90 days due to his incarceration. President Moreno has been given 15 days to put forward the names of three candidates for the position of Vice-President, but it is suspected he will do so well before the 15 days given.

Glas at present is the highest-ranking politician to be convicted in the scandal that has spread across much of Latin America, which is being called one of the biggest corporate corruption cases in history. Widespread protests have occurred across Latin America, with the scheme bringing issues of corruption to the forefront of prosecutors and the Medias agendas. Former CEO Marcelo Odebrecht is currently serving a 19-year jail term which began in 2016, and has since provided information to the authorities regarding others involvement in the scheme, including information that was used in Glas’s trial. Over 70 other Odebrecht executives have been jailed, with many of them offering information in exchange for more lenient sentences. At present, $785.5m worth of bribe payments have been admitted by various Latin American and two African countries, with a further $26.5m suspected.

African Union Warns IS Foreign Fighters Headed to Africa

Posted on in Africa, al-Qaeda, IS, Islamic State title_rule

Reports have emerged that up to 6,000 Africans who fought for the so-called Islamic State (IS) are making their way back to Africa after the group was forced out of territory previously held in Syria and Iraq. The threat posed by IS militants was raised on 11 December 2017 during a meeting on counter-terrorism organized by the African Union (AU) and Algeria. The AU’s top security official called on regional countries to prepare. The report comes as the G5 Sahel is launching operations in the West African region amidst an increase in terrorist activity in the past year.

Smaïl Chergui, the AU’s commissioner for peace and security, told the meeting “there are reports of 6,000 African fighters among the 30,000 foreign elements who joined this terrorist group in the Middle East.”  He warned that African countries will need to work closely with one another to share intelligence in order to counter returning militants.

After IS seized vast swathes of Iraq and Syria in 2014, tens of thousands of foreigners joined the terrorist group. However, in the last year, IS has suffered a string of losses to both its territory and military capabilities. Earlier this month, Iraq declared that the country was had been liberated from IS’ control. In Syria, the terrorist group remains under pressure. The squeeze on IS in Iraq and Syria has sparked concerns that its remaining foreign fighters will return home to spread their ideology or conduct extremist actions.

Africa’s Fragile Security Situation

Africa’s security situation remains fragile as a number of countries are battling insurgencies led by major terrorist groups with links to al-Qaeda and IS. Continued insecurity in Libya and Mali, along with insurgencies in Somalia and Nigeria, have transformed areas of the continent into breeding grounds for jihadi activity – resulting in regional instability. Fighters with weaponry are able to move with relative ease through the porous borders. These regional conflicts have also spilled across borders, and have begun to impact stable nations.

 In Nigeria, Boko Haram’s nine-year insurgency has continued, despite the Nigerian government’s announcements on numerous occasions that the terrorist group has been defeated. Although the number of attacks in the northeastern region of the country has significantly declined in the last year, and Boko Haram no longer controls major areas, suicide bombings continue to target mosques, markets and other soft targets. The Far North region of Cameroon and the southern Diffa region of Niger have been impacted by Boko Haram violence. In Somalia, al-Shabaab has remained active, and in October the group launched their deadliest attack – a truck bombing in the capital Mogadishu that killed over 500 people. The United States has carried out dozens of airstrikes targeting senior al-Shabaab commanders this year, however the central government in Mogadishu has minimal control outside the capital. Al-Shabaab has continued to launch attacks near the border regions with Kenya.

In West Africa, the continued situation in Mali has increasingly impacted security across the region. Fighting has spilled as terror groups launch attacks in Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, and Niger. In 2015, at least 81 incidents of terrorism were reported in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger, with most incidents occurring in Mali. In 2016, this figure decreased slightly to 70 incidents, yet regional terrorist groups proved their operational capabilities by launching a major attack in Grand Bassam Ivory Coast in March of that year. In 2017, the number of terrorist incidents has nearly doubled from 2016, with at least 132 attacks reported as of 15 December. Furthermore, the northern Sahel region in Burkina Faso has seen a sharp rise in extremist activity this year, as terrorist groups operating in the area increasingly target local communities.

 2015 – 81 Terrorist Incidents reported; most activity occurring in Mali


 2016 – 70 terrorist incidents reported. While activity slightly declined, groups are becoming bolder, launching major attacks in countries not previously threatened by terrorism, like Ivory Coast 

2017 – 132 incidents reported as of 15 December, with a major expansion of reported incidents in the southern region of Mali, northern area of Burkina Faso, and western Niger.

The African continent is now under increased threat from a battle between IS and al-Qaeda, as both terror groups seek to gain influence in the region. This battle has already begun; IS aims to find new territory after suffering major losses in Iraq and Syria, and al-Qaeda aims to secure its future on the African continent by expanding its operations into countries previously unaffected by terror, and forming alliances in the sub-Saharan region.

IS influence on the African continent has increased in recent years – Boko Haram has split, with one faction continuing under the al-Qaeda banner and another pledging allegiance to IS. Similarly in Somalia, a small group of IS fighters have emerged and launched attacks in the Puntland region, though officials have indicated that their influence remains minimal. Al-Qaeda has also sought to expand their influence, and have used Mali’s continued insecurity to their advantage. New groups have emerged along the southern Malian border with Burkina Faso and Niger. These groups have proven to be deadly as they have launched attacks on the local communities, kidnapping and killing locals as they attempt to spread their ideology.

While the G5 Sahel operation is a sign that West African leaders are aware of the threat posed by terrorist groups operating in the region, its impact remains to be seen as funding issues have impacted the operation.