May 5, 2021
Washington, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today released the following new report on religious freedom violations committed by violent Islamist groups in the central Sahel region of west Africa:
Central Sahel Factsheet – Over the past half decade, violent Islamist groups have gained ground in the central Sahel region of west Africa by controlling territory and conducting attacks in the tri-border region between Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso. Both Islamic State and al-Qaeda affiliated armed groups are responsible for grave violations of international religious freedom in their areas of control, including executing individuals based on their beliefs and imposing a strict interpretation of Shari’a (Islamic law) on Sahelian citizens. This factsheet documents religious freedom violations committed by select militant Islamist groups such as Islamic State in Greater Sahara (ISGS) and Katiba Macina in the central Sahel, as well as challenges facing efforts to counter these groups.
In its 2021 Annual Report, USCIRF recommended that the U.S. Department of State designate ISGS and Katiba Macina’s parent organization Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin’ (JNIM) as “entities of particular concern,” or EPCs, under the International Religious Freedom Act for engaging in or tolerating systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom in areas under their control. USCIRF also released a factsheet on Attacks on Houses of Worship and Religious Leaders in Burkina Faso in October 2020.