African countries should be prepared for the security threat posed by the return of an estimated 6,000 African jihadists who fought for the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria.
A top security official of the African Union warned on Sunday that the Jihadists could bring back with them their violence and extremist ideology.
Smail Chergui, the AU’s commissioner for peace and security, said African nations would need to work closely with each other and share intelligence to counter returning militants.
“There are reports of 6,000 African fighters among the 30,000 foreign elements who joined this terrorist group in the Middle East,” Chergui told a meeting in Algiers, according to the Algeria Press Service news agency.
“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 said. Tens of thousands of foreign fighters joined the Sunni extremist group after it seized vast swathes of Iraq and Syria and declared a caliphate in 2014.
But the group has suffered a host of losses to both its territory and military capabilities in the last year. Backed by a US-led coalition, Iraqi forces gradually retook control of all territory lost to the jihadists, declaring on Saturday that the country was now liberated from its control.
In Syria, the group faces western-backed Syrian rebels, jihadist rivals and government forces that are supported by Russia and Iran. But the losses have sparked fears that IS’s remaining foreign fighters may now relocate, bringing their extremist ideology and violence with them. Some of the dislodged fighters have been found in Afghanistan.