The Global Terrorism Index (GTI) has released a report ranking the most terrorized countries in Africa, with Burkina Faso, Somalia, Mali, Nigeria, and Niger taking the top five spots.
The GTI report indicates that terrorism deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa have increased by eight per cent, with 60 per cent of all terrorism deaths globally occurring in this region. The report also identifies four of the ten countries with the largest deteriorations in GTI score to be located in Sub-Saharan Africa. The article provides an overview of the most terrorized countries in Africa, highlighting specific security challenges they are facing, such as terrorism, political instability, intercommunal violence, and criminal activities.
Top 20 Most Terrorized Countries in Africa, 2023
1. Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso is Africa’s most terrorized country with a record high of 310 attacks in 2022, a 50% increase from the previous year, and over half of the 1,135 deaths in 2022 being civilians. The majority of attacks occurred near the borders with Niger, Benin, and Mali, with the Sahel region experiencing the highest number of deaths. Civilians were the most targeted group for the fourth year running, accounting for over 57% of all terror-related deaths, with JNIM being the leading terrorist group. Despite JNIM claiming responsibility for most terror attacks, 88% of attacks and 87% of deaths were attributed to unknown jihadists, placing Burkina Faso among the countries with the highest rates of unclaimed terrorist attacks and deaths globally.
Somalia has been facing political instability and violence for decades. The country has been struggling with a civil war, clan conflicts, and attacks by Islamist extremist groups such as Al-Shabaab. These groups have carried out suicide bombings, assassinations, and attacks on civilians and government officials, causing widespread fear and displacement. Despite efforts by the Somali government and international partners to restore peace, the situation in Somalia remains fragile.
As the third most terrorized country in Africa, Mali has been facing a complex security crisis characterized by armed conflict, terrorism, and intercommunal violence. In 2022, Mali recorded its highest number of deaths due to terrorism in the last decade, even as the number of attacks from IS and JNIM decreased. Despite the country’s focus on restoring constitutional order and civilian rule following the coup of May 2021, security responses and strategies have been ineffective in protecting Malians from violent attacks by extremist groups.
Nigeria currently faces multiple security challenges, including the Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast, separatist movements in the southeast, and intercommunal violence in various parts of the country. Boko Haram, which seeks to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria, has carried out suicide bombings, kidnappings, and attacks on civilians, causing widespread displacement and humanitarian crises. The deadliest terrorist group in Nigeria for the third consecutive year was ISWA, with a lethality rate of 3.7 deaths per attack, which is an increase from the previous year.
Niger experienced a significant decline in terrorist attacks and deaths in 2022, with deaths falling to their lowest level since 2019. Despite this, Niger is still the fifth most terrorized country in Africa, and civilian casualties accounted for 60% of the total death toll. Boko Haram became the deadliest terrorist group in the country, responsible for 44 deaths in 2022. Tillaberi province continues to be the hardest-hit region, with 44% of the country’s terrorist attacks and 60% of its casualties. Over 70% of the attacks in Niger in 2022 were not claimed by any known terrorist group.
Cameroon, the sixth most terrorized country in Africa, is grappling with a security crisis in its Anglophone regions, as separatist groups demand independence from the primarily Francophone government. The conflict has caused confrontations between security forces and armed separatists, leading to assaults on civilians, resulting in massive displacement and humanitarian crises. Besides the Anglophone crisis, Cameroon is also facing a threat from Boko Haram, which has launched assaults on both civilians and security personnel in the country’s northern regions.
Mozambique is facing an insurgency in its northern province of Cabo Delgado, where Islamist extremist groups affiliated with ISIS have established a foothold. The insurgency, which began in 2017, has resulted in attacks on civilians, displacements, and destruction of infrastructure. The country is currently the seventh most terrorized country in Africa.
8. DR Congo
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is facing a range of security threats, including armed conflict, intercommunal violence, and the presence of extremist groups such as the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). The ADF, which originated in Uganda, has carried out attacks on civilians, causing displacement and humanitarian crises. The situation in the DRC is further complicated by the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the eastern part of the country.
Egypt is ranked the ninth most terrorized country in Africa, as it has been targeted by several terrorist groups in recent years. The most notable of these groups is the Islamic State’s Sinai Province, which has carried out numerous attacks in the Sinai Peninsula and occasionally targeted major cities such as Cairo. In addition to the threat from ISIS, Egypt also faces terrorism from other groups such as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis and Hasm. The government has taken strong measures to combat terrorism, including military operations in the Sinai and extensive security measures in major cities, but attacks continue to occur. The most common targets for these attacks are military and police personnel, but civilians have also been affected.
10 . Chad
Chad has been grappling with terrorism for years, making it the 10th most terrorized country in Africa. Boko Haram, an Islamist extremist group based in Nigeria, has carried out numerous attacks in Chad’s border regions, resulting in many deaths and displacements. In addition, the country also faces threats from other groups, including the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The Chadian government has been working with regional and international partners to counter these threats, but the situation remains challenging, with ongoing attacks and insecurity in several parts of the country.
According to the Global Terrorism Index, Kenya is the 11th most terrorized country in Africa. The country has experienced significant terrorist activity in recent years, primarily at the hands of al-Shabaab, a Somali-based terrorist organization. In 2013, al-Shabaab attacked the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, resulting in the deaths of at least 67 people. The group has also targeted Kenya’s northeastern region, where it has carried out numerous attacks on civilians and security forces. Despite the efforts of the Kenyan government to combat terrorism, the threat remains a significant concern for the country.
Togo is ranked as the 12th most terrorized country in Africa, with sporadic incidents of violence occurring mainly in its northern regions. The country has been relatively stable, but it faces a low-level threat from terrorist groups such as Boko Haram and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
Benin is ranked as the 13th most terrorized country in Africa. While the country has not experienced major terrorist attacks in recent years, it has been impacted by the spillover effects of terrorist activities in neighboring countries. In particular, Benin has been affected by the activities of Boko Haram, which has carried out attacks in nearby countries such as Nigeria, Niger, and Cameroon. Benin has also been targeted by piracy in its coastal waters, which has impacted the country’s economy and security. The government of Benin has taken steps to improve its security and counter-terrorism measures, including through collaboration with regional and international partners, but the threat of terrorism remains a concern for the country.
According to GTI, Libya is the the 14th most terrorized country in Africa. The country has been plagued by instability and violence since the overthrow of former leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The situation has been exacerbated by the presence of various armed groups, including Islamist militants, who continue to carry out attacks against security forces, government institutions, and civilians. The conflict has also fueled the growth of human trafficking networks, with migrants from sub-Saharan Africa being particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. The international community has been working to support a political solution to the conflict, but progress has been slow, and the security situation in Libya remains fragile.
Algeria is ranked as the 15th most terrorized country in Africa due to the ongoing threat of terrorism from various extremist groups, including Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the Islamic State, and other smaller groups. While Algeria has made significant progress in combating terrorism since the 1990s, when the country was wracked by a brutal civil war, the threat remains. In recent years, there have been sporadic attacks targeting security forces and civilians, particularly in the restive regions of the south and east. The government has responded with a heavy-handed approach, including military operations and arrests of suspected extremists, but the root causes of the extremism, including poverty and political disenfranchisement, remain unresolved.
Tanzania is ranked as the 16th most terrorized country in Africa. The country has experienced sporadic attacks by Islamist extremist groups such as Al-Shabaab, which has been active in neighboring Somalia. The group has carried out several attacks in Tanzania, including a deadly attack on a hotel in the capital, Dar es Salaam, in 2019. Tanzania has also seen an increase in attacks by criminal gangs and bandits, who target remote areas and vulnerable communities. The government has responded by increasing its security presence in affected regions and working with neighboring countries to counter the threat of terrorism.
Burundi is facing political instability and intercommunal violence, with opposition groups accusing the government of authoritarianism and human rights violations. The country has also experienced attacks by armed groups, causing displacement and humanitarian crises.
Tunisia has experienced multiple terrorist attacks since the 2011 revolution, with the deadliest attack occurring in 2015 at the Bardo National Museum in the capital city, Tunis, where gunmen killed 21 tourists and a police officer. Since then, the government has implemented various security measures to prevent similar attacks, including increased police and military presence in tourist areas and the border regions. Despite these efforts, Tunisia continues to face a threat from terrorist groups, including ISIS, which is believed to have established a presence in the country’s remote mountainous areas. The country has also experienced social and economic challenges, including high unemployment rates, which could contribute to an environment conducive to extremism and terrorism.
Djibouti is considered the 19th most terrorized country in Africa. Although the country has not experienced any significant terrorist attacks in recent years, it is at risk due to its strategic location and proximity to Somalia, which has been facing terrorist threats from the Al-Shabaab group. Djibouti is also a key host to several foreign military bases, including those of France, the United States, and China, making it a potential target for terrorist groups.
20. Côte d’Ivoire
Côte d’Ivoire, also known as Ivory Coast, has experienced a significant decrease in terrorism in recent years. However, the country still ranks as the 20th most terrorized country in Africa. In 2022, there were only two recorded terrorist incidents, resulting in zero deaths. These incidents were both attributed to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which has been active in the Sahel region. Despite the low number of incidents, Côte d’Ivoire remains at risk of terrorist activity due to its proximity to countries such as Mali and Burkina Faso, which have experienced a rise in violent extremist activity in recent years.
The GTI, which is in its tenth edition, is produced annually by the Institute for Economics & Peace, an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank with offices in Sydney, New York, and Mexico City.
The GTI monitors and measures the impacts of terrorism in 163 countries, which covers 99.7 per cent of the world’s population.
The GTI uses a total number of terrorist incidents, total number of fatalities caused by terrorists, the total number of injuries caused by terrorists, a measure of the total property damage from terrorist incidents in a given year to arrive at its ranking.