THE killing of 148 people in an attack by Somalia’s Al-Shabaab gunmen at a college in northeastern Kenya shocked the world, and it only added to what has been a bloody start to the year for the continent.
A troubling pattern is emerging, with nearly all of the continent except the southern African region affected by attacks of violent extremist organisations (VEOs). A map of the violence shows it cutting a straight line in the middle of the Africa from the west, through central Africa, to the east African coast.
In the latest case in Kenya, at least four gunmen stormed Garissa University, about 330 kilometres northeast of the capital, Nairobi, and proceeded to massacre their victims, the majority of them Christians in a tactic it has used before.
The attack becomes the second-worst in Africa this year, following on the heels of the January 3 Boko Haram attacks on the town of Baga in north-east Nigeria. Hundreds, “up to 2,000” are said to have been killed by the militants, according to Amnesty International. If verified, the higher figure would be Africa’s worst terror attack on record.
The Nigerian government, with one eye on the elections, put the death toll at 150.
On February 20, three coordinated suicide bombings in Libya’s eastern city of Qubbah killed at least 47 people, including three Egyptians and two Sudanese nationals. The Islamic State claimed the bombings.
Up to 25 people are estimated to have died when Al-Shabaab militants stormed a hotel in Mogadishu on the same day, in an attack that also killed the local deputy mayor and two MPs.
In a sign that awareness that terrorism in Africa has become truly a transnational problem, leaders of central and west African states will hold a summit next week to try to draw up a joint strategy against Nigeria’s Boko Haram militants, a statement from organisers regional bloc ECOWAS said Sunday.
The April 8 summit will be the first of its kind since Nigeria’s election a week ago which was won by Muhammadu Buhari, a former military leader who has vowed to rid his country of the “terror” of Boko Haram.
A coalition involving troops from the four countries has been waging offensives against the Islamists in a bid to crush the insurgency, which has now spread across borders from Boko Haram’s stronghold in Nigeria. It was not immediately clear if Buhari would be attending the meeting in Malabo, capital of Equatorial Guinea, as he will not be sworn in as president to succeed incumbent Goodluck Jonathan until May 29.
The list of the attacks is much longer than the Malabo meeting can deal with:
A siege by the militants on another hotel on March 27 left at least 20 people dead, including Somalia’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.
In a March 18 attack claimed by an Islamic State affiliate group, two gunmen killed 21 foreign tourists at a museum in Tunis in one of the worst attacks in the country. A policeman was also killed by the gunmen.
In early January at least 15 people—some reports counted 25—were killed when Boko Haram attacked a bus in Cameroon’s Far North.
And on March 22 a group of heavily armed Muslims attacked several villages in the Central African Republic, killing at least 11 people. The country continues to struggle to bridge its sectarian divide since 2013.