Unveiling ISIS: The Secret War Against Christians in Africa

After the Islamic State or ISIS lost many of its leaders and core territories in Iraq and Syria in 2019 and 2020, much of the world thought it had been defeated, essentially forgetting about the jihadist organization that terrorized many countries worldwide, primarily in the Middle East.

But the recent news of a school attack in Uganda, along with a new report published by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) on ISIS attacks against Christians in Africa, suggest that the Islamic State is experiencing a resurgence in Africa, thanks in part to the efforts of ISIS-affiliated groups and ISIS fighters operating in the region.

In Uganda, dozens of students have been murdered after five militants stormed their school in Mpondwe, in the country’s western part. During the attack at the Lhubiriha secondary school, the assailants killed and maimed their victims with machetes, and survivors even saw them throwing a bomb at their dormitory, causing a fire.

Ugandan authorities reported that 37 students were killed by the militants, suspected of being members of the Islamist Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), which is now based in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The rebel group has also been waging war with the Ugandan government since the late 1990s and has been a part of the Islamic State’s Central Africa Province since the two groups forged connections in 2017.

Twenty murdered students were maimed with a machete, while the remaining 17 were burned to death. Their corpses were so badly burned that a DNA test will be carried out to identify the victims. The suspected ADF militants also killed three local community members and a school guard.

The recent attack in Uganda followed a series of attacks that many ISIS-affiliated groups in Central and West Africa have carried out against communities and groups, as identified by MEMRI’s new report.

ISIS-linked militants and organizations have terrorized several African countries, such as Nigeria, the DRC, and Mozambique. In Mozambique, the Islamic State’s Central African Province or IS-CAP successfully took over Mocímboa da Praia, a port town north of the country, last August 2020 as part of a larger insurgency in Cabo Delgado.

These militants mainly targeted Christians in Africa, who were either beheaded, enslaved, or forced to convert to Islam. MEMRI reported that IS-linked fighters killed at least 202 Nigerian Christians, 157 Mozambican Christians, and 365 Congolese Christians killed, with dozens of churches burned.

These terrorist groups also enslaved minorities living in controlled areas, particularly Christians. According to a 2022 report by the IS-CAP that detailed their spoils from “warfare, displacement, banditry, and highway robbery" in “Christian” areas, 14 slave girls, 21 slave boys, 13 children, and 24 slave women were included under "the following human beings [that] were obtained."

Lastly, forced conversions to Islam were prevalent in areas terrorized by IS-connected terrorist groups, such as in 2022, when the IS-CAP released a video of a group of prisoners from the DRC being released after converting to Islam.

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