South Korea Bolsters Defense Collaboration in the Arabian Peninsula

K239 Chunmoo Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS).

“…The two sides agreed to further develop the bilateral relationship to a ‘future-oriented strategic partnership’…”

South Korea is showing itself to be a potentially important player in the security landscape of the Arabian Peninsula thanks to deepening defense cooperation with both Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The most tangible Korean inroads in this regard have come from arms sales. In 2021, the UAE became the first publicly known export destination for the South Korean-produced K239 Chunmoo rocket artillery system[GRLCUT(1] . Similarly, in 2022, the UAE became the first export destination for the South Korean-produced KM-SAM (Cheongung II) air defense system[GRLCUT(2] . For its part, in April 2023, Saudi Arabia revealed its own previously undisclosed K239s, deployed along its border with Yemen.  The revelation came in a video posted on Twitter by the Saudi defense ministry. This disclosure follows a visit in March 2023 of Saudi Arabia’s defense minister to South Korea. As noted in the first accompanying excerpt, from South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency, the trip may have been partly related to Saudi interest in acquiring KM-SAM systems. South Korea appears poised to become an important actor in the lucrative Gulf states arms market.

Saudi Arabia aspires to develop a robust indigenous defense industry, in line with the country’s Vision 2030 strategic development plan. China has emerged as an important partner in these efforts; South Korea, it seems, is well positioned to follow suit.[i] Beyond merely arms sales, South Korean defense companies have shown a willingness to establish joint production ventures with countries in the Middle East.[ii] In 2019, leading Saudi and South Korean defense entities signed a memorandum to form a Riyadh-based joint venture company focused on manufacturing and selling ammunition inside Saudi Arabia, to be called SAMI-Hanwha Munitions Systems. As reported in the second excerpted article, from the South Korean English-language daily Korea JoongAng Daily, the same entities inked a contract worth nearly $1 billion involving undisclosed “support for Saudi Arabia’s defense capabilities and supply chain services” at the 2022 Saudi World Defense Show. 


“S. Korean, Saudi defense chiefs agree on regular ministerial dialogue on defense cooperation,” Yonhap News Agency (South Korea news agency), 7 March 2023.

The defense chiefs of South Korea and Saudi Arabia agreed Tuesday to install a regular ministerial-level dialogue on arms industry cooperation during their talks in Seoul, the defense ministry here said… [South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup] expressed expectations that ongoing negotiations on South Korea’s defense exports to Saudi Arabia will be concluded successfully, while explaining progress that the country’s arms industry has made. The ministry did not elaborate on the negotiations. Saudi Arabia is known to be considering the introduction of the South Korean-made Cheongung II midrange surface-to-air missile system.

“Time is ripe for Korea to sell Saudi Arabia more weapons,” Korea JoongAng Daily (South Korean English-language daily), 16 November 2022.  

Hanwha’s contract, worth 3 billion riyals, entails company support for Saudi Arabia’s defense capabilities and supply chain services. Both sides declined to specify which weapons would be supported under the agreement, citing a confidentiality clause. 


[i] For more on Chinese inroads in Gulf country defense industries, see: Lucas Winter, “Chinese-Arab Summit Signals Growing Saudi-Chinese Defense Alignment,” OE Watch, 2-2023.

[ii] Last year, South Korea and Egypt signed a sale and co-production deal for the Korean K-9 howitzer. For more on the deal, see: “Egypt, South Korea sign deals for joint manufacturing of K-9 howitzers.” al-Ahram (Egyptian daily), 26 February 2022.,-South-Korea-sign-deals-for-joint-manufactur.aspx

Image Information:

Image:  K239 Chunmoo Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS)
Attribution: CC 3.0

Brazil’s President Pushes ‘Peace Club’ for Russia’s War in Ukraine

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva accepts the credentials of the Chinese ambassador.

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva accepts the credentials of the Chinese ambassador.

“From the point of view of Brazilian diplomacy, it would be precisely the lack of alignment with either side that would make Brazil an accredited actor to participate in sewing a way out of the impasse.”

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio ‘Lula’ da Silva entered office with a flurry of diplomatic activity and initiatives. Most prominently, Lula has pushed for the idea of a “Peace Club” to mediate an end to Russia’s war in Ukraine. This was a principal topic of discussion on Lula’s first state visit to China, according to Voz de America, the American public-private media partnership with excellent media coverage of Latin America.[i] The outlet reports that Lula discussed his plan at length with Chinese President Xi Jinping, even mentioning it in a public appearance, but he was unable to secure Chinese participation. Nevertheless, Lula has positioned Brazil, according to this reporting, to be a neutral arbiter in the current conflict, at least rhetorically. The reality may be much different, however, according to BBC Brasil, the Brazilian version of the popular British media outlet. Lula’s comments indicate that he considers both Russia and Ukraine at fault for the war, and the West responsible for “encouraging” greater fighting. While Lula has tried to pursue non-alignment in Brazil’s foreign policy, serving as a prominent spokesperson for Global South countries on the war in Ukraine,[ii] these comments and his recent trip to China have called into question Brazil’s neutrality as a potential arbiter in the war.


“Lula pide un ‘grupo de paz’ para negociar un acuerdo entre Ucrania y Rusia (Lula calls for a ‘peace group’ to negotiate an agreement between Ukraine and Russia),” Voz de America (the American public-private media partnership with regional coverage of Latin America), 16 April 2023.

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on Sunday proposed the creation of a group of countries not involved in the war between Russia and Ukraine to mediate for peace, saying he had discussed the matter with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping. Lula had previously said that the group should bring together countries that would not ‘encourage’ the war, adding that nations that supply weapons had to be convinced to stop doing so. Lula repeated that the decision to start the war was ‘taken by two countries,’ seeming to blame Ukraine as well, adding that ending the war will be more difficult as more nations will have to be persuaded.

“Brasil tem chances reais de mediar negociações de paz na Ucrânia? (Does Brazil have a real chance of mediating peace talks in Ukraine?),” BBC Brasil (the Brazilian version of the popular British media outlet), 15 April 2023.   Lula’s position has been seen as ambivalent internationally. Although Brazil formally condemns the Russian invasion of Ukrainian territories in multilateral organizations such as the United Nations (UN)…Lula has already said that the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, was as responsible for the crisis as the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin. Recently, Lula suggested that Ukraine would have to give up the territory of Crimea in order to end the conflict, which was rejected by the Ukrainians and displeased western powers. From the point of view of Brazilian diplomacy, it would be precisely the lack of alignment with either side that would make Brazil an accredited actor to participate in sewing a way out of the impasse.


[i] For more coverage of the Lula-Xi state visit, see: Oliver Stuenkel, “Courting Lula, China Seeks to Show It Has More to Offer than the U.S.,” Americas Quarterly, 12 April 2023.

[ii] For more information on how Latin America has pursued a strategy of non-alignment on Russia’s war in Ukraine and other issues, see: Ryan C. Berg et al., “A Hesitant Hemisphere: How Latin America Has Been Shaped by the War in Ukraine,” Center for Strategic & International Studies, 27 February 2023.

Image Information:

Image: Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva accepts the credentials of the Chinese ambassador.
Attribution: Flickr, CC-BY 2.0

Egypt and India Deepen Security Cooperation

A former Egyptian Helwan HA-300 aircraft is displayed in the Flugwerft Schleißheim

A former Egyptian Helwan HA-300 aircraft is displayed in the Flugwerft Schleißheim.

…The two sides agreed to enhance and deepen defense cooperation in all fields, especially through exchanging technological expertise in defense industries, visiting military exercises, and exchanging best practices…”

Egypt and India have recently accelerated security cooperation. In 2021, the two militaries held naval, air force, and tactical counterterrorism training exercises, and in September 2022, India’s defense minister visited Egypt to sign a bilateral defense cooperation agreement. In January 2023, President Sisi of Egypt traveled to India as the guest of honor for Republic Day celebrations, where he and his Indian counterpart, Prime Minister Modi, signed an agreement to elevate bilateral relations to the level of “strategic partnership.” According to the first accompanying excerpt from the final joint statement of that event, published by the Egyptian government’s State Information Service, the Egyptian-Indian strategic partnership will include an expansion of bilateral military exercises, efforts to bolster defense co-production, and increased exchanges of technological expertise.

Indeed, the potential for their bilateral collaboration is clear, as Egypt’s interest in strengthening its domestic defense industry aligns neatly with India’s interest in growing its foreign military sales and partnerships. One platform allegedly being discussed in this context is India’s Tejas Mk1A light combat aircraft. According to the second accompanying excerpt from the Indian English-language daily Hindustan Times, in February 2023, the chairman of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited revealed that talks are ongoing for Egypt to buy 20 aircraft. He added: “Egypt has also shown interest in creating a local aerospace ecosystem. We will help facilitate that.” Media reports from early 2021 also point to Egyptian interest in the BrahMos[GRLCUT(1] , a cruise missile developed by India and Russia, and in the Indian-manufactured Akash[GRLCUT(2]  medium-range mobile surface-to-air missile system.[i] Both Egypt and India have significant Soviet and Russian equipment in their arsenals, and maintenance and repair of these systems are considered a likely area of collaboration, particularly in light of Russia’s expected Ukraine-related difficulties in meeting the needs of its defense export clients. The deepening Indian-Egyptian defense partnership has generated several commentaries linking recent events to developments in the 1960s, when the future of Indian-Egyptian defense cooperation seemed bright. At the time, leaders in Egypt and India saw their countries playing a critical geopolitical balancing role as founding leaders of the Cold War-era Non-Aligned Movement. Perhaps not surprisingly, the official statement at the end of Sisi’s January 2023 visit to India referred to both countries’ commitment to, among others, “the founding values of the Non-Aligned Movement.” As illustrated by the third accompanying excerpt from the Indian English-language news website The Print, this historical period is instructive as Egypt and India look to ramp up bilateral defense collaboration in an increasingly competitive geopolitical context. Specifically, the article looks at some of the lessons for the present from the short-lived and ultimately unsuccessful efforts to co-produce a light fighter jet—the Helwan HA-300—in the 1960s.


زيارة الرئيس السيسي إلى جمهورية الهند

(President Sisi’s visit to the Republic of India),” Egypt State Information Service (National Public Information Agency), 24 January 2023.

The two countries affirmed their commitment to… the founding values ​​of the Non-Aligned Movement, and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries…

The two leaders welcomed the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding for defense cooperation during the visit of Mr. Rajnath Singh, Indian Defense Minister, to Egypt in September 2022, and expressed their appreciation for the bilateral military cooperation reaching a new level. The two sides agreed to enhance and deepen defense cooperation in all fields, especially through exchanging technological expertise in defense industries, visiting military exercises, and exchanging best practices. They also stressed the need for co-production in the defense sector and discussed specific proposals within the framework of the Joint Defense Committee

“India in talks with Argentina, Egypt for possible Tejas sale,” The Hindustan Times (Indian English-language daily), 14 February 2023.

India is in talks with Egypt and Argentina for a possible sale of the indigenous Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) to their air forces as the country sharpens its focus on getting a toehold in foreign markets and boosting defence exports, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) chairman CB Ananthakrishnan said at the Aero India 2023 air show on Tuesday. Egypt has projected a requirement for 20 aircraft, while Argentina needs 15 new fighters, he said. “Egypt has also shown interest in creating a local aerospace ecosystem. We will help facilitate that.”

“With Rajnath Singh in Cairo, India-Egypt pick up Nehru-Nasser thread left off in the ’60s,” The Point (Indian English-language news website), 19 September 2022. Singh’s talks with his Egyptian counterpart, General Mohamed Zaki, will explore new initiatives to intensify military-to-military engagements and deepen cooperation between the defence industries of the two countries. This, after decades of sketchy contact despite India-Egypt’s close ties in the Nehru-Nasser heyday of the Non-Aligned Movement… Almost six decades on, though, the strategic imperatives that drove the collaboration still exist: Heavily dependent on imports, both countries know that true military modernisation will need the creation of a defence-industrial base at home.


[i] See: “Egypt considers purchase of Indian missile system,” al-Monitor (Middle East-focused news and analysis website), 2 February 2021.

Image Information:

Image: A former Egyptian Helwan HA-300 aircraft is displayed in the Flugwerft Schleißheim
Source: Photo by High Contrast,,_Flugwerft_Schleißheim.jpg
Attribution: CC 3.0

Lessons for India From the War in Ukraine

Induction Of AH-64E Apache Attack Helicopter in Indian Air Force.

Induction Of AH-64E Apache Attack Helicopter in Indian Air Force.

“If Indian Apaches have any role to play against Pakistan or China, it will most likely be in a reconnaissance role or missions involving close air support for ground forces.”

The Indian Armed Forces carried out an exercise in the summer of 2022 that drew on the lessons from the first few months of the war in Ukraine.[i] The accompanying excerpted article from the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), an independent think-tank in India, examines some additional lessons the Indian armed forces can draw from the war in Ukraine. While the article is not an official Indian position, ORF does have influence on Indian policy making.  In early March 2023, the think-tank co-hosted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov with India’s Ministry of External Affairs as part of the Raisina Dialogue. The Raisina Dialogue is an annual event that brings in policymakers from around the world; while it only began in 2016, it has become one of the most significant forums in India on geopolitical issues. The article’s authors enumerate six lessons that India can learn from the war in Ukraine. First, the authors cite the battle for Bakhmut as an example of the importance of securing territory even when the battle is not important for the outcome of the war overall. This leads to the second lesson: “attritional warfare still matters” as armor, artillery, and engineers are not replaceable by cyber or other non-kinetic capabilities. From its perspective, this makes an army and land power vital for India’s security and defense.. Third, the authors note the importance of having “land-based ballistic and cruise missile forces” after having watched what happened to several ships in Russia’s Black Sea fleet. Fourth, the authors note that rotary and fixed-wing aircraft have not had much of a strategic impact on the conflict. Thus, India’s own capabilities in this domain would most likely take on a reconnaissance or close air support role in a potential war with Pakistan or China. As a result, the authors believe India should develop counter-UAV systems. Lastly, they note that the fifth and sixth lessons show how airborne and amphibious forces should be used selectively and that artificial intelligence can be used to increase targeting capabilities, respectively. The article concludes by noting that the Indian Army “has its task cut out” for itself and it should invest in kinetic capabilities and apply emerging technologies alongside them, “not as substitutes but as enablers.” While it remains to be seen what changes Indian officials make for the armed forces, the article articulates how the war in Ukraine could influence these decisions.


Harsh V. Pant and Kartik Bommakanti, “Learnings from the Ukraine battlefield for armed forces,” Observer Research Foundation (independent think-tank in India), 22 March 2023.

The ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, visibly evident in the bloody fighting in the Ukrainian town of Bakhmut, has again drawn attention to the constant – war is the ultima ratio or the supreme arbiter in international politics…

There are six key takeaways for India from the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

First, and specifically in the war underway between Russia and Ukraine, strategically, the success in the battle of Bakhmut is not consequential for the overall direction of the war for either party. Yet, despite its limited strategic or military value, the two warring States have been fighting a brutal campaign to win it for the last several months, reflecting how visceral the motivation remains in securing land-based territorial possession…

Second, this leads us to a corollary and related variable – attritional warfare still matters, making armies and land power vital to a nation’s security and defence, including India’s…Critical capabilities such as armour, artillery and technical personnel, such as engineers, will still matter, and they are not replaceable by cyber, space and other non-kinetic information-related capabilities.

Third, the Russia-Ukraine war has revealed the vulnerability of maritime forces to interdiction and destruction…As a result, the Russian Navy’s Black Sea fleet has effectively retreated to its bases or been compelled to maintain a safe distance from Ukrainian shore-based missiles. It is not for nothing the Chinese have built a whole range of “carrier killing” shore- and land-based projectiles in the form of Anti-Ship Ballistic Missiles and Anti-Ship Cruise Missiles…India can also emulate Ukraine and China by building its land-based ballistic and cruise missile forces.

Fourth, deep penetration attacks inside enemy territory, employing rotary and fixed-wing aircraft, have proved ineffective in producing a strategic effect…

Take rotary-wing aircraft such as the Apache, which India operates, and is geared for deep strike missions…If Indian Apaches have any role to play against Pakistan or China, it will most likely be in a reconnaissance role or missions involving close air support for ground forces.

Ukrainian forces have used short-range anti-aircraft weapons and small arms fire with lethal effect against Russian fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft. On the other hand, the Ukrainians have yet to gain much either, as they have been compelled to use their air assets to support ground forces and preserve combat strength. Consequently, neither side has gained air superiority. India could benefit considerably by developing Counter-Unmanned Aerial Systems, instead of investing heavily in deep-penetration strike capabilities, which are highly vulnerable to adversary interdiction…

The fifth issue that Indian defence planners must consider is that airborne and amphibious missions are susceptible to lethal targeting by the enemy…For example, Russian airborne forces incurred heavy losses in trying to seize Hostomel airport in the early stages…Amphibious and airborne forces might not be relics of the past, but they must be used in selective and specific missions. Acquiring capabilities that increase the survivability and lethality of Indian forces should be the core aim of Indian military planners.

Finally, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has already played an important role in the Ukraine conflict and will do so in future wars…Ukrainian forces have employed AI with devastating impact by deploying or embedding software engineers with combat units on the battlefront in Bakhmut.

The engineers have precisely adjusted functions of algorithms to augment their target-acquisition capabilities, enabling commanders to accurately locate Russian forces for destruction…Ukrainians have used a combination of sensor data derived from satellite intelligence and AI instruments to execute precise strikes against Russian forces…The Indian armed services, especially the Indian Army, has its task cut out. It must invest in armour, missile and artillery capabilities and apply emerging technologies not as substitutes but as enablers of these firepower-intensive capabilities.


[i] For more on India’s exercise in 2022 drawing from lessons learned in the war in Ukraine, see: Matthew Stein “India Draws Lessons on Cyber and Electronic Effects From the War in Ukraine,” OE Watch, 9-2022.

Image Information:

Image: Induction Of AH-64E Apache Attack Helicopter in Indian Air Force.
Attribution: Government Open Data License – India (GODL)

Ongoing Clashes in Nagorno-Karabakh Threaten Fragile Truce

Azerbaijani protesters during the 2022 blockade of the Lachin corridor.

Azerbaijani protesters during the 2022 blockade of the Lachin corridor.

“Thus, the corridor was blocked by two checkpoints — an “ecological” and a “peacekeeping” one. The peacekeepers are not letting ecologists enter Stepanakert, but they’re also not interfering with their blocking of the highway.”

On 5 March 2023, a clash took place in the Lachin Corridor, which connects Armenia with the Armenian-occupied region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The fight between Azerbaijani soldiers and Armenian policemen left five dead. The Lachin Corridor remains the only road connecting ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia following the ceasefire agreement that ended the 2020 war. The blockade is being carried out by so-called “ecologists” from Azerbaijan, who have stated they are concerned that mining operations in Nagorno-Karabakh are having a negative environmental impact on the region. However, there have been reports that the “ecologists” are likely working for the government of Azerbaijan. The incident brought increased attention to Azerbaijan’s ongoing blockade of the Corridor, which effectively cut off a significant lifeline for ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. The blockade also raises questions about the role Russian peacekeepers have in the Lachin Corridor, as well as Armenians who are using routes outside the main road in the corridor to travel to Nagorno-Karabakh. While the incidents have not spiraled out of control into a larger conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, they have added to what has been an unstable situation since the 2020 war ended.[i] The accompanying excerpted articles provide a look at the issues causing incidents in recent months between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces.

The first article from the independent English-language newspaper Novaya Gazeta Europe is a reporter’s account of traveling to Nagorno-Karabakh and includes interviews with regional analysts on the situation since the blockade by Azerbaijani ecologists began in December 2022. The author details numerous issues for those trying to travel to Nagorno-Karabakh via the Lachin Corridor, including the cost to be escorted there and having to pass through multiple checkpoints. The author points out how “Azerbaijan is building very expensive roads from its side, carving tunnels in the mountains,” as part of an effort to not only cut off the Lachin Corridor, but also control additional routes to Nagorno-Karabakh. Another analyst interviewed for the article claimed that Armenians are using the corridor to transport military cargo and that vehicles continue to travel to Nagorno-Karabakh despite the ecologists’ blockade. The article also notes how the blockade has remained in place even after outside efforts to end it, including Putin’s attempt to maintain leverage in Nagorno-Karabakh and the wider region through the appointment of ethnic Armenian Ruben Vardanyan to the office of State Minister in Armenia. Vardanyan was later dismissed, reportedly at the request of Azerbaijani President Aliyev during negotiations to end the blockade. The second article from Armenia’s state news agency Armenpress offers insight into an 11 April incident near the Lachin Corridor. While the article presents only the Armenian perspective, which blamed Azerbaijan for instigating the incident, the article notes that the Armenian military had been carrying out engineering work. It is unclear if this work is for a road or a defensive position, but it is taking place near the corridor. With the ongoing blockade by Azerbaijani ecologists and both Armenia and Azerbaijan constructing and using roads in and around the Lachin Corridor to their own advantage, additional skirmishes are likely, increasing the chance of escalation to a wider conflict.


Irina Tumakova, “‘The thing I miss the most? Freedom’,” Novaya Gazeta Europe (independent English-language newspaper), 24 March 2023.

While I was coming down the Lachin mountain serpentine, my phone started vibrating. It was someone from the Russian military base, which, as is commonly believed, maintains peace and security in the small part of Karabakh that is still controlled by the unrecognised republic. “Andrey Valeryevich,” the man from the Russian peacekeepers base introduced himself shortly. “I was told you want to cross over to Stepanakert. Why?”

I explained that I had to see how people in Nagorno-Karabakh are living under the blockade organised by Azerbaijani eco-activists.

“The blockade?” Andrey Valeryevich chuckled. “They’re doing great, better than before! It’s us, peacekeepers, who’re under the blockade. The prices are crazy! Take a dozen eggs — three hundred rubles [€3.6] in Russian money. Isn’t that crazy? Three hundred! These ‘blockade victims’, these Armenians, are the ones selling us eggs at such prices!”

…“There’s a passage to get into Karabakh, but it costs money, 150 thousand [Armenian] drams [about €360] per person,” Armenian politologist Andrias Gukasyan tells me a few days later. “You have to first go to the Russian peacekeepers base in Goris. Why are you so surprised? You’ve come from Russia, you know what it’s like…”

…From the Armenian side, the border is guarded by an Armenian military police post. This is where Karabakh’s blockade begins. There’s another post like that in Stepanakert, in between the two there are Russian peacekeepers and Azerbaijani “ecologists” who organised the blockade.

…Karabakh and Armenia are connected via the Lachin corridor in the mountains. The corridor’s width is stated at 22 km. In reality, it’s a narrow highway where even two cars aren’t always able to let each other pass…Driving here is hard and dangerous, so Azerbaijan is building very expensive roads from its side, carving tunnels in the mountains…

According to the trilateral agreement signed on 9 November 2020, Azerbaijan pledged not to interfere with Armenians’ coming and going to and from Karabakh. The corridor has to remain under the control of Russian peacekeepers, they’re the ones ensuring the aforementioned freedom of movement.

On 12 December 2022, the road was blocked by people from Azerbaijan. They referred to themselves as eco-activists who had to verify the compliance with the environmental protection norms on two Karabakh mines — the Drmbon mine and the Kashen mine…Thus, the corridor was blocked by two checkpoints — an “ecological” and a “peacekeeping” one. The peacekeepers are not letting ecologists enter Stepanakert, but they’re also not interfering with their blocking of the highway…

“After the death of police officers (on 5 March, a car of the unrecognised republic’s police department was shot at, three police officers were killed — editor’s note), we went to the Russian peacekeeper contingent, we wanted to express our protest against everything going on. There’s a lot of blame on our locals too when it comes to the police officers’ death…”

“According to the trilateral agreement, this road is a humanitarian corridor to connect Armenia with Armenian residents of Karabakh,” this is how Azerbaijani political analyst Ilhar Velidaze explains the recent protests in the Lachin corridor. “However, we are able to follow the cargo movement through satellites and we have observed several times that the road is used for military cargo too, as well as soldiers coming in from Armenia. We couldn’t just act indifferently…Unfortunately, the Armenian side is trying to misrepresent the situation as a humanitarian catastrophe,” he notes. “But there’s no catastrophe to speak of. Take a look at the so-called ‘blockade’…During the last three months of the Azerbaijani activists’ protest, the Lachin road was used by over 4,000 vehicles that were transporting various cargo, furthermore, these are heavy-duty vehicles. Can this be called a blockade?”

“Putin sent Ruben Vardanyan to Karabakh as his representative,” Arif Yunusov, Head of the Conflictology Department of Azerbaijan’s Institute of World and Democracy, notes. “He was conducting secret talks about these mines, but they fell through. But for Putin, the main thing wasn’t the mines. Russia, dissatisfied with Pashinyan, assumed that Vardanyan would gain power in Karabakh, the next step being his candidacy as Armenian Prime Minister…You may recall how Presidents [Robert] Kocharyan and [Serzh] Sargsyan came into power, they’re from Karabakh too. Karabakh is a jumping off point.”

Ruben Vardanyan, Russian billionaire of Armenian origin, came back to Armenia in September of last year, went to Karabakh, and was appointed State Minister… In February, it came out that Vardanyan was dismissed from his position, as per the condition put forward by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. That was soon after the UN International Court of Justice demanded the Lachin corridor be unblocked. But the “ecologists” pickets remained.

…When the condition of Vardanyan’s dismissal was fulfilled, Azerbaijan brought forward another one — this one has as much to do with the environment and ecologists (nothing)…“Now, they’re demanding there be a checkpoint built on that road because the Armenians are allegedly transporting weapons into Karabakh,” Arif Yunusov says…

“Азербайджанцы потребовали от армянских военнослужащих прекратить инженерные работы: подробности о провокации в селе Тех (Azerbaijani demanded that Armenian soldiers halt engineering work: details on the provocation in the village of Tegh),” Armenpress (state news agency of Armenia), 12 April 2023.

Presenting the details of the Azerbaijani provocation near the village of Tegh on April 11, Khachatryan said that under the pretext of negotiations, an Azerbaijani car drove up to the Armenian positions from the territory controlled by them and demanded that the Armenian military personnel stop engineering work……On April 11, at about 16:00, on the territory of the Republic of Armenia, near the village of Tegh, Syunik region, a group of servicemen of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces, under the pretext of clarifying the border points of deployment, approached the servicemen of the RA Armed Forces, further provoked them, opened fire in the direction of the servicemen and positions of the Armenian Armed Forces…As a result of the Azerbaijani provocation from the Armenian side, there are 4 dead and 6 wounded. As of 0800 April 12, the situation on the front line remains relatively stable.


[i] For more background on incidents between Armenia and Azerbaijan since the 2020 war ended, see: Matthew Stein “The Impact of Territorial Changes in Nagorno Karabakh,” OE Watch, July-2021.

Image Information:

Image: Azerbaijani protesters during the 2022 blockade of the Lachin corridor.
Attribution: CCA 4.0

Top Ugandan General Adds to Growing List of Pro-Russian African Military Personnel

Ugandan General Muhoozi Kainerugaba (right), meets with Rwandan President Paul Kagame (left) in Kigali, Rwanda on 22 January 2021.

Ugandan General Muhoozi Kainerugaba (right), meets with Rwandan President Paul Kagame (left) in Kigali, Rwanda on 22 January 2021.

“Call me Putinist if you want, we Uganda should send soldiers to defend Moscow if ever it was threatened by imperialists.”

Over the past several years, a notable trend has seen various francophone states in the West and Central African regions begin to reject French political and military assistance, and instead, align themselves with Russia and the Wagner Group.[i] From Mali[ii] to the Central African Republic[iii] to Burkina Faso,[iv] the most ardent African supporters of Russia have generally been francophone military commanders. However, the accompanying article from pan-African news aggregator AfricaNews illustrates how pro-Russian sentiment is now increasingly showing itself in anglophone countries, namely, in the East African state of Uganda.

As reported, Ugandan Lt. Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba made waves when he announced that if needed Uganda would send troops to help Russia defend itself. “Call me ‘Putinist’ if you want, we Uganda should send soldiers to defend Moscow if ever it was threatened by imperialists,” he tweeted. The only son of Uganda’s long-time president Yoweri Museveni, Kainerugaba is widely expected to be his father’s successor, the latter having served as the country’s president for the past 37 years. Kainerugaba, who attended the U.S. Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, previously served as the commander of land forces for the Uganda People’s Defence Force (2021-2022), and twice as the commander of Uganda’s Special Forces Command (2008-2017, 2020-2021).

The recent pro-Russian sentiments from Kainerugaba are in line with his own previous exaltations. In May 2022, he tweeted that “The majority of mankind (that are non-white) support Russia’s stand in Ukraine. Putin is absolutely right!” For its part, Uganda has abstained from the two 2022 UN Security Council resolutions condemning Russia, and in mid-2022, announced that its state broadcaster had signed a memorandum of understanding to disseminate two daily news bulletins from Russia’s state-funded RT news service. Though President Museveni has historically maintained good relations with the West, he has often been criticized for his illiberal rule. While Kainerugaba’s outlooks are officially only his personal opinions, his high-profile role in the Ugandan armed forces and Ugandan society in general, in addition to the real likelihood that he may assume the presidency of the country, suggest that an anglophone African country that was once a reliable U.S. ally may now be leaning more toward a key U.S. adversary.


Uganda will send soldiers to Moscow to defend Putin if need be – President’s son,” AfricaNews (centrist pan-African news aggregator,” 31 March 2023.

The son of Ugandan leader Yoweri Museveni, Muhoozi Kainerugaba, said he would send Ugandan troops to defend Moscow in case of an “imperialist” threat.

“Call me Putinist if you want, we Uganda should send soldiers to defend Moscow if ever it was threatened by imperialists,” he wrote on Twitter.

“The West is wasting its time with useless pro-Ukrainian propaganda,” added the president’s son, a staunch supporter of Vladimir Putin…

Uganda has abstained from UN votes on the Ukrainian conflict, including one in February on the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which called on Moscow to withdraw its troops from the country…

In July, during a tour of Africa by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Kainerugaba said, referring to Russia, “How can we be against someone who has never hurt us?

Russia has traditionally had strong ties to Africa because of its support for independence movements on the continent that were then struggling with colonial powers.Observers have long considered Muhoozi Kainerugaba to be a likely successor to his father Yoweri Museveni, 78.


[i] For more on Russian attempts to garner African allies, especially following its invasion of Ukraine, see: Jason Warner, “Russia Laying Groundwork Ahead of July 2023 Russia-Africa Summit,” OE Watch, 1-2023.; Jason Warner, “”African Stances on the Russia-Ukraine War Demonstrate Reliance on, Antipathy Toward West,” OE Watch, 9-2022.

[ii] For more on the relationship between Mali, France, and Russia, see: Jason Warner, “Mali Claims France Funded Terrorists: France Denies,” OE Watch, 10-2022.; Jason Warner, “Mali Defends Reliance on Russian Counterterrorism Assistance,” OE Watch, 03-2023.

[iii] For more on the deteriorating relationship between the Central African Republic and France, see: Jason Warner, “Following Mali, CAR Accuses France of Funding Terrorists,” OE Watch, 4-2023.

[iv] For more on the relationship between Burkina Faso, France, and Russia, see: Jason Warner, “Burkina Faso Fights Terrorism with Recruits and Russia,” OE Watch, 02-2023.

Image Information:

Image: Ugandan General Muhoozi Kainerugaba (right), meets with Rwandan President Paul Kagame (left) in Kigali, Rwanda on 22 January 2021.
Attribution: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

El Salvador’s State of Emergency Marks One Year With No End in Sight

 Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele delivers a speech on security policy.

 Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele delivers a speech on security policy.

“The state of exception suspends various constitutional guarantees. It allows arbitrary arrests without a warrant, interrupts freedom of association, the right to legal defense, and extends the term of administrative detention to 15 days (when it is normally 72 hours). Under this special regime, the government brought thousands of soldiers and police onto the streets to carry out mass captures. Bukele arrested more than 65,000 suspected gang members, according to official figures, although multiple organizations estimate that thousands could be innocent.”

As part of an effort to fight the notorious MS-13 and Barrio 18 gangs, Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele declared a special state of emergency suspending habeas corpus and incarcerating fully 2 percent of the country’s adult population.[i] Recently, Bukele’s state of emergency turned one year old, reports France24, the public-private media partnership associated with the French state. The outlet details how popular the plan is among Salvadorans, reporting they appear willing to accept curtailment of rights in favor of greater security from the country’s gangs, suggesting El Salvador’s state of emergency is unlikely to end anytime soon.

Throughout his tenure, Bukele has shifted his strategy for fighting transnational organized crime, reports El Faro, the Salvadoran investigative outlet often at odds with the president. At the beginning of his presidency, El Faro broke the news that Bukele had negotiated a secret pact with the country’s gangs, seeking to lower the homicide rate and earn their political support in exchange for turning a blind eye to drug trafficking and other activities. After a spate of murders in March 2022, however, Bukele terminated the informal agreement and reversed course drastically. The media outlet reports a decline in homicides in many neighborhoods throughout the country. The perceived success fo Bukele’s crime-fighting strategy has inspired so-called “Plan Bukeles”—as multiple leaders repeat calls to imitate El Salvador’s internal security plan.[ii] Fighting transnational criminal organizations by deprioritizing human rights and allowing presidents to accrete greater power during states of emergency also risks democratic backsliding and consolidating authoritarian political projects.


“Qué ha pasado en El Salvador tras un año bajo el régimen de excepción (What has happened in El Salvador after a year under the emergency regime?),” France24 (the public-private media partnership associated with the French state), 28 March 2023.

After a year of emergency regime, El Salvador has not come out of its ‘war against gangs.’ The state of exception was originally approved at the end of March 2022 and was implemented by President Nayib Bukele to fight gang violence in the country…Since then, it has been renewed twelve times by the Legislative Assembly of El Salvador…a number that contrasts with what is permitted constitutionally…The Constitution of the Republic establishes very clearly that the emergency regime can only be extended once, that is, for 30 days.

“El año en el que la excepción se convirtió en la norma (The year the exception became the norm),” El Faro (the Salvadoran investigative outlet often at odds with the president), 23 December 2022. Bukele found his political crusade in the state of emergency in the face of the announcement that he would make six months later, his desire to run for re-election in 2024, violating several articles of the Constitution. Since then, brandishing his state of emergency, Bukele has presented himself as the strongman who will put an end to the criminal groups that have been bleeding and extorting Salvadorans for decades. Since March 2022, more than 60,000 Salvadorans have been detained, doubling the country’s prison population in nine months.


[i] For more background on Bukele’s security plan and its impact on the country, and especially its democracy, see: “Democracy Dies Under Mano Dura: Anti-Crime Strategies in the Northern Triangle,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 12 April 2023.

[ii] For more information on the popularity of “Plan Bukele” regionwide, see: “Nayib Bukele’s Growing List of Latin American Admirers,” Americas Quarterly, 16 February 2023.

Image Information:

Image: Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele delivers a speech on security policy.
Attribution: Wikimedia, CC-BY-SA 4.0

Multinational Joint Task Force Lauds Counterterrorism Success Against Boko Haram

Life goes on in Bosso, Niger, 19 April 2017.

Life goes on in Bosso, Niger, 19 April 2017.

“We are proud to release this documentary, which showcases the hard work and dedication of the MNJTF troops in the fight against terrorism.”

In April 2023, the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), the five-nation grouping of West African states focused on countering terrorism in the region, released its first-ever documentary film on its official website to highlight the progress the military coalition is making against Boko Haram around Lake Chad.[i] The documentary included interviews of MNJTF commanders from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Cameroon[ii] who emphasized several key themes regarding MNJTF strategy, including overcoming civilian mistrust as a result of past security forces abuses. The video noted that civil-military relations have improved since the mid-2010s when the Nigerian military committed numerous human rights violations throughout the Lake Chad region.[iii] This is important because, as an MNJTF commander interviewed in the documentary stated, Boko Haram operates like a Maoist insurgency and depends on moving among the people of Lake Chad like fish swimming in water. Good relations with the civilian population are essential to counter Boko Haram. Additional themes covered in the film included eliminating ungoverned spaces where Boko Haram operates with impunity, clearing territory to ensure traditional and national holidays can proceed without disruption to reflect a return to “normalcy,” and facilitating the travel of displaced persons back to their home villages. The documentary also noted the MNJTF’s primary focus was to conduct operations against Boko Haram in riparian areas along Lake Chad where Boko Haram often holds hostages for ransom and raises funds from the fish trade by taxing fishermen and selling fish that group members catch.[iv]


“The Multinational Joint Task ForceReleases Maiden Documentary,” (official website of the MNJTF), 12 April 2023.

The Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) has released a documentary showcasing its operational successes in the fight against insurgency in the Lake Chad Region. The documentary, titled “Victory Against Insurgency in the Lake Chad Region,” highlights the progress made by the MNJTF in the past few years in the fight against terrorism. The documentary features interviews with the Head of Mission, the Force Commander, Former Force Commander, and MNJTF sector commanders as well as footage of successful military operations and the impact of the MNJTF’s efforts on the local communities…. The documentary is part of the MNJTF’s ongoing efforts to raise awareness about its mission and to solicit support from the public.


[i] For more information see: Jacob Zenn, “Nigerian Leadership Seeks Renewed Regional Cooperation Against Boko Haram,” OE Watch 02-2023.

[ii] Benin, the fifth MNJTF member-state, was not featured in the documentary. The country generally does not fight against Boko Haram in the Lake Chad region.

[iii] In 2015, an Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) report found, based on interviews of civilians affected by the Boko Haram conflict, that the military and security forces were causing a high number of civilian casualties, and most notably in Baga, Nigeria, where civilians were reportedly shot by security forces and 642 people were displaced. Also problematic were reports of civilian vigilante groups handing over Boko Haram suspects to the military, who then disappeared. Some of the suspects, however, were simply detained by the vigilantes as part of a personal feud, rather than any meaningful relationship with Boko Haram. See OHCHR, “Violations and abuses committed by Boko Haram and the impact on human rights in the countries affected,” Report A/HRC/30/67 of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Agenda Item 2, 9 December 2015.

[iv] According to an informed report that included interviews of fishermen around Lake Chad, kidnapping for ransom makes financial sense for Boko Haram around the lake because there is a lot of money in circulation from agriculture and fishing from which ransom money can be paid. Moreover, the kidnapping-for-ransom tactic can serve as a punishment or a warning to deter civilians from paying “protection money” to Boko Haram’s Islamic State-aligned faction. Aside from this tactic, another faction collaborates with civilians who come from Niger to fish in the areas of Lake Chad under the militants’ control, and, in return for this “protection,” the Nigeriens bring goods that the militants need. See Maman Inoua Elhadji Mahamadou Amadou and Vincent Foucher, “Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin: The Bakura Faction and its Resistance to the Rationalisation of Jihad,” Megatrends Afrika Policy Brief, 8 December 2022.

Image Information:

Image: Life goes on in Bosso, Niger, 19 April 2017.
Source: Nicolas Pinault (VOA),_Niger,_19_April_2017.png
Attribution: (CC x 2.0)

Leader of Al-Qaeda’s Sahelian Branch Explains His Group’s Goals

Map of West Africa.

Map of West Africa.

The countries that attacked and fought us under the banner of France and its allies, we will do everything in our power to fight them and transfer the war to these countries.”

Following a groundbreaking interview with the head of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) by France 24 in March 2023,[i]the independent website Africa Perceptions has published a new interview with the head of AQIM’s Sahelian branch,Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM). Meaning “Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims,” JNIM has recently been named one of the three deadliest terrorist groups in the world, one of the greatest threats to West African stability, and the core cause of the massive uptick in violence from the Sahel.[ii] As the United States, its African allies, and the international community at large seek to stem the tide of terrorism decimating the Sahel and increasingly spreading into littoral West Africa,[iii] understanding the perspectives of the perpetrators of the violence remains as important as ever.The interview of JNIM’s leader, Saydin Ag Hita alias Uthman al-Qayrawani, is much longer than is portrayed below, touching on JNIM’s relations with other jihadist groups and local populations in Mali among other topics. When asked about his group’s broader goals, al-Qayrawani’s responses reasserted the centrality of the jihadist mission: “The primary objective of this group is what appears in its name, namely support for Islam and Muslims…It is about waging jihad for the cause of Allah, so that the word of Allah is supreme, and it also means that the earth and its inhabitants must be governed by the religion of Allah [Islam].” Given this desire to have the entirety of the world under Islamic rule, his interpretation is that the friends of his enemies are also his enemies. As such, he is clear that not only France (which led counterterrorism operations against the group until recently), but those countries that supported France or received support from France (such as Niger), the Malian regime and its allies (like the Wagner Group), other West African countries (including Benin, Togo, and Ghana), and the broader international NGO and humanitarian corps are all potentially in the crosshairs of his group. In the full interview, he also refused to answer a question about his group’s adversarial relationship with the Islamic State.


“Exclusif: Le Chef De La JNIM, Alliée D’Al-Qaïda Au Sahel, Explique Le Sens Et La Raison De Ses Guerres (Exclusive: The Leader of JNIM, An Ally Of Al-Qaeda In The Sahel, Explains The Meaning And The Reason For His Wars)” African Perceptions, 16 April 2023.

 “African Perception” publishes here the entire exclusive interview given on March 22, 2023 by Saydin Ag Hita alias Uthman al-Qayrawani. Self-proclaimed governor of Kidal, in Mali, for the Sahelian branch of Al-Qaeda, Ag Hita notably evokes the religious and military objectives of the organization, both in Mali and abroad, its agreements with local groups such as the MSA (the Movement for the Salvation of Azawad) led by Moussa Ag Acharatoumane, and the GATIA, coordination with jihadist units throughout Africa, the future of the mercenaries of the Russian Wagner group and the course of the war with the Sahelian province of Daesh.

African Perceptions: What are the goals of the Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen? Are they limited to the application of the Islamic sharia in Mali or in the countries of the African Sahel, or do they target other countries? If yes, which ones?

Uthman al-Qayrawani: The primary objective of this group is what appears in its name, namely support for Islam and Muslims. Its purpose is clear from its name. In other words, it is about waging jihad for the cause of Allah, so that the word of Allah is supreme, and it also means that the earth and its inhabitants must be governed by the religion of Allah (Islam).

As for what you say, the countries of the African Sahel, or the targeting of other countries, what is that? We launched our call for jihad in Mali and we also fought the regime in place in that country. The Malian government asked for help from France, which intervened with nearly 60 countries and all their military forces. Some of these countries were known as Takuba, others as G5 and still others as MINUSMA. On the other hand, Muslims fighting for the cause of Allah came from several countries to support their religion and their mujahid brothers, and most of them came from neighboring countries (I mean Muslims), and up to ‘now the war has not ended.

The countries that attacked and fought us under the banner of France and its allies, we will do everything in our power to fight them and transfer the war to these countries. Those who abandoned us, we will abandon them, and those who fought us, we will fight them. And whoever started is the most unfair.

African Perceptions: While you were fighting Daesh in Ménaka and battling the armies of Mali and Burkina Faso with intense operations, you launched operations targeting Benin and Togo. What is the objective of these, especially at a time when you need to unite your ranks in Mali against Daesh?

Uthman al-Qayrawani: Our operations in Togo and Benin are due to several reasons. For example, when these countries felt the presence of the mujahideen on the Burkinabè border, they tried to harass them from several sides and they also oppressed the Muslims, especially the Fulanis, with all forms of injustice – murder, imprisonment, and flight. These strikes were therefore carried out in retaliation for the actions perpetrated by these countries against the mujahideen and all innocent Muslims.

African Perceptions: You fought the French military presence in Mali by waging a war until the total withdrawal of their soldiers from the country. How do you see the future of Russian forces and Wagner’s mercenaries in Mali?

Uthman al-Qayrawani: First of all, Allah is sufficient for us and He is the best in managing affairs. What we see in the future for Russian forces and Wagner’s mercenaries in Mali is defeat, with Allah’s permission. Allah the Almighty said: “Those who disbelieve spend their wealth to divert it from the way of Allah, and they will continue to spend it, but it will eventually cause them anguish.” They will then be defeated. And those who disbelieve will be gathered in Hell” [Al-Anfal, 36]. We consider that this is the last card left to the military regime in place in Mali, and that if it is defeated, there will be no more allies to fight alongside it and try to eliminate his enemy.


[i] For more on the interview with AQIM’s leader, see: Jason Warner, “Al-Qaeda Leader in Maghreb Says Group Has No Plans to Attack French Homeland, Though Celebrates French Departure,” OE Watch, 4-2023.

[ii] For more on JNIM’s contribution to West African terrorism, see: Jason Warner, “UN Warns About Islamic State Surging in Africa and Afghanistan,” OE Watch, 3-2023. Jason Warner, “African Leaders, UN See Terrorism in the Sahel as Dire,” OE Watch, 11-2022.

[iii] For more on the threats to littoral West African states from northern terrorism, see: Jason Warner, “Coastal West African States Brace for Wave of Terrorism From the Sahel,” OE Watch, 10-2022.

Image Information:

Image: Map of West Africa.
Attribution: JRC, European Commission, CC BY 4.0

Global Terrorism Declined Slightly in 2022, With the Sahel as the New Epicenter

 Flag of the Islamic State. 

Flag of the Islamic State. 

“[Terrorism] deaths in the Sahel constituted 43% of the global total in 2022, compared to just one percent in 2007.”

A recent report from the new Australian-based Institute for Economics and Peace offers a useful overview of the state of global terrorism over the past year. The report claims that global terrorism declined slightly in 2022, along with the number of terrorist-caused deaths and attacks. The Islamic State (IS) has been named the deadliest global terror group for the eighth straight year.

As previous global assessments have underscored,[i] [ii] the accompanying report relays that the African continent, and especially West Africa’s Sahel region, now constitutes the global epicenter of terrorism. As the report notes, violence from the Sahel , where both al-Qaeda and the Islamic State have substantial, feuding branches, has seen a rise in terrorist incidents by a factor of 17 since 2017. Indeed, it notes that deaths in the Sahel were 43 percent of the global total in 2022, compared to just 1 percent in 2007.Mali and Burkina Faso are the sources of the preponderance of violence. Notably, two of the three most deadly terrorist groups in the world are African: al-Shabaab, which is al-Qaeda’s East African branch, and Jamaat Nusrat Al-Islam wal Muslimeen, which is the Sahel-based faction of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.[iii] Another notable takeaway from the report is that, although the African continent is the epicenter of global terrorism, the country with the single highest number of terrorism incidents in the past year was Afghanistan, albeit with a significant decline in deaths and incidents from the years prior. However, this decline is somewhat artificial because the Taliban are now state representatives, which means that any attacks that they carried out were not included as part of these tallies. Thus, notably, even in their absence, Afghanistan remains rife with terrorist incidents. Even as global attention has largely shifted away from a predominant focus on jihadist-linked terrorism and toward near-peer competition, the broader trend of Islamic State, al-Qaeda, and Taliban-linked violence has far from disappeared.


Institute for Economics & Peace. “Global Terrorism Index 2023: Measuring the Impact of Terrorism,” IEP (Australian think tank), March 2023.

In 2022, deaths from terrorism fell by nine per cent to 6,701 deaths and is now 38 per cent lower than at its peak in 2015. The fall in deaths was mirrored by a reduction in the number of incidents, with attacks declining by almost 28 per cent from 5,463 in 2021 to 3,955 in 2022. However, if Afghanistan was removed from the index, terrorism deaths would have increased by four per cent.

Afghanistan remained the country most impacted by terrorism for the fourth consecutive year, despite attacks and deaths falling by 75 per cent and 58 per cent respectively. The GTI does not include acts of state repression and violence by state actors and, as such, acts committed by the Taliban are no longer included in the scope of the report since they took control of the government.

The deadliest terrorist groups in the world in 2022 were Islamic State (IS) and its affiliates, followed by al-Shabaab, Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and Jamaat Nusrat Al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM).

IS remained the deadliest terror group globally for the eighth consecutive year, recording the most attacks and deaths of any group in 2022. Despite this, terrorism deaths attributed to IS and its affiliate groups, Islamic State – Khorasan Province (ISK), Islamic State – Sinai Province (ISS) and Islamic State West Africa (ISWA), declined by 16 per cent. However, there has been a rapid increase in deaths attributed to unknown jihadists in the countries where ISWA operates, increasing by 17 times since 2017 to 1,766 terrorism deaths. Given the location, many of these are likely unclaimed attacks by ISWA. If most of the deaths caused by unknown jihadists were included as IS terrorism deaths, then the outcome would have been similar to 2021. Eighteen countries experienced a death from terrorism caused by IS in 2022, a slight decrease from 20 countries the year prior.The Sahel region in sub-Saharan Africa is now the epicentre of terrorism, with the Sahel accounting for more terrorism deaths in 2022 than both South Asia and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) combined. Deaths in the Sahel constituted 43 per cent of the global total in 2022, compared to just one per cent in 2007. Of particular concern are two countries, Burkina Faso and Mali, which accounted for 73 per cent of terrorism deaths in the Sahel in 2022 and 52 per cent of all deaths from terrorism in sub-Saharan Africa.


[i] For information on the United Nations’ recent assessments of the global state of terrorism, see: Jason Warner, “UN Warns About Islamic State Surging in Africa and Afghanistan,”” OE Watch, 3-2023.; Jason Warner, “African Leaders, UN See Terrorism in the Sahel as Dire,” OE Watch, 11-2022.

[ii] For how West African states view the current threats from terrorism, see: Jason Warner, “Coastal West African States Brace for Wave of Terrorism From the Sahel,” OE Watch, 10-2022.; Jason Warner, “Mali Defends Reliance on Russian Counterterrorism Assistance,” OE Watch, 03-2023.; Jason Warner, “Burkina Faso Fights Terrorism With Recruits and Russia,” OE Watch, 02-2023.

[iii] For more on how al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb views its current struggles in the Sahara and Sahel, see: Jason Warner, “Al-Qaeda Leader in Maghreb Says Group Has No Plans to Attack French Homeland, Though Celebrates French Departure,” OE Watch, 4-2023.

Image Information:

Image: Flag of the Islamic State. 
Attribution: CC BY-SA 2.0