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Jihadist Groups in North Africa and the Sahel: Between Disintegration, Reconfiguration and Resilience


This paper, based on extensive interviews and fieldwork conducted in North Africa and the Sahel, considers the recent evolution of jihadi organizations in this region, and offers analysis of patterns of competition and violence among different jihadi groups. We argue that while there is a clear division between Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups and those linked with the Islamic State (IS), this has never turned into a civil war among them, in contrast to the jihadi groups in the Middle East, who have competed violently, especially Al-Nusra Front and IS. More dangerous, and in the context of the collapse of the Islamic State in the Middle East, we have observed patterns of rapprochement of its North African-Sahelian affiliates with Al-Qaeda-linked groups. This paper also examines the fragmentation of the North African-Sahelian regional states system into two categories: a core of strong states controlling their borders and territories and thus able to contain jihadi groups (Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco), versus the weak and collapsed ones (Libya and the Sahel) which are unable to check the expansion of those groups. To this extent, the paper shows that the resilience of these organizations is influenced both by their own strength and by the weakness of their opponents.

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