The Specter of Islamist Extremism Looms Over West Africa by Siobhán O'Grady – Washington Post
… But thousands of miles away from the Islamic State’s stronghold in Syria and Iraq, a lesser-known epidemic of insurgency has upended the lives of millions of people.
Throughout West Africa and the Sahel, violence is surging as a wide set of extremist groups, some with allegiances to the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, continue to target civilians and armed forces. They are infiltrating the region even as the influence of some powerful extremist groups wanes in the Middle East. Now, some experts and government officials fear that violence in such volatile hot spots may only increase.
Some even warn that the fall of the Islamic State could cause a flow of extremists to relocate to the Sahel, where vast desert regions, porous borders, corruption and proliferation of arms have created a perfect storm for extremists looking to exploit local populations.
In an interview with me and my colleague Danielle Paquette this week, Malian Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubèye Maïga said he feared that as groups such as the Islamic State weaken in the Middle East, it “could lead to a transfer of jihadists to the Sahel region.”
And violence among local communities is rising as some civilians, fearing extremists, have begun to arm themselves…