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FUNDING EAST WAR: Islamic State Pours Millions Of Dollars In DRC Chaos

New reporting shows how the Islamic State group has funded the Allied Democratic Forces for at least four years, leading to an escalating scale of brutality.

The report by a United Nations panel of experts outlines the latest evolution of the relationship between one of the deadliest terrorist groups in central Africa and the Islamic State group, which seeks to expand its footprint on the continent after losing ground in the Middle East.

The Allied Democratic Forces, which are based in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), is accused of attacking a dormitory in western Uganda in mid-June, leaving 41 dead. Attackers set fire to the building, shot wildly and then used machetes to hack survivors to death. It was the deadliest attack in Uganda in more than a decade.

“I keep on hearing the voices of those students begging for their lives,” one witness told the BBC. “I’ve not been able to eat because I keep on replaying the cries of the children.”

Formed in 1995, the Allied Democratic Forces in 2018 publicly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, which dubbed it the Islamic State Central African Republic (ISCAP) and claimed credit for some of the group’s attacks in western Uganda and the eastern DRC.

Since 2017, the Kivu Security Tracker reports 999 incidents involving the Allied Democratic Forces in eastern DRC provinces bordering Uganda and Rwanda. As of October 2020, the Islamic State group had claimed credit for 72 attacks inside the DRC, with 65% of those directly related to verified Allied Democratic Forces attacks.

According to the tracker, a large number of attacks have taken place across the border from Uganda’s Kasese province where the June school shooting happened.

According to the U.N. report, the Islamic State group has funded the Allied Democratic Forces since 2019 through a web of financial mechanisms running through Kenya, Somalia, South Africa and Uganda. The report also notes that the Allied Democratic Forces has sent fighters beyond their base in North Kivu and Ituri in an attempt to expand their operations in the region — possibly as far as the DRC capital, Kinshasa.

“It should be noted that (their) objective is to carry out acts of terror that make big publicity,” DRC government spokesperson Patrick Muyaya told a news briefing after the release of the U.N. report.

The Allied Democratic Forces’ turn toward the Islamic State group was more pragmatic than ideological: A group member opposed to the turn told analysts that the hope was that the Islamic State group would be “splashing them with dollars and weapons and ammunition,” according to a 2021 report by the George Washington University’s Program on Extremism.

Allied Democratic Forces has reportedly killed thousands of civilians and hundreds of Soldiers and displaced hundreds of thousands of others in the DRC over the past decade. Since 2019, Allied Democratic Forces’ activities have received prominent appearance in Islamic State group media.

“It is evident that the Islamic State is leveraging these activities to demonstrate that it remains a relevant and active movement with a broad transnational reach, despite its loss of territorial control across Syria and Iraq,” the Program on Extremism analysts wrote in their report, “The Islamic State in Congo.”

The U.N. report also found connections between Allied Democratic Forces and the Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama’a militia in Mozambique, which has also declared allegiance to Islamic State.

With formal Islamic State affiliates and pro-Islamic State groups dotted across Africa, the potential for cross-border collaboration and the movement of greater numbers of foreign fighters may threaten regional stability, according to the report.

CREDIT: DefenceWeb

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