The African Union (AU) commissioner for peace and security, Smail Chergui, has warned that up to 6 000 Africans who fought for the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group in Iraq and Syria could be returning home, Kenya’s Daily Nation reported on Monday.
Chergui’s Sunday warning came as he called on African states to prepare for the threat, work closely with each other and share intelligence to counter the 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.
“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.
Following the declaration of a caliphate and its seizure of large swatches of Iraq and Syria by the Sunni extremist group in 2014 tens of thousands of foreign fighters was recruited to its ranks.
However, the IS has lost most of its territory in both Iraq and Syria, due to on-going efforts by coalition and government forces, backed by the United States military, to expel the extremists from their countries, ultimately crippling the organisation’s military capabilities.
These losses have forced the IS to regroup elsewhere while simultaneously many of the foreign fighters are opting to return home.