Democratic Republic of the Congo

Overview:  More than a dozen significant armed groups and about 100 criminal gangs and local militias operate in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).  ISIS’s regional affiliate in the DRC, which it calls its Central Africa Province, is locally known as the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) or Madina at Tauheed Wau Mujahedeen.  The United States designated ISIS-DRC as a foreign terrorist organization in March 2021.

Before pledging allegiance to ISIS in 2017, ADF had operated in the eastern DRC for years.  Since 2013, ADF has perpetrated large-scale violence against civilians and asymmetric attacks against the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) and UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (or MONUSCO) Peacekeepers, often in retaliation for military operations conducted against it.  From 2020 to the end of 2022, ISIS-DRC increased its area of operation across North Kivu and Ituri Provinces by 210 percent, as military operations have dispersed the group but not reduced its activities.  Although these operations have somewhat disrupted the organization’s recruitment, financing, and community networks, ISIS-DRC units remained highly mobile and deadly.  Further, Congolese security resources have been diverted away from the ISIS-DRC theater to concentrate on securing the population against the growing threat of the March 23 Movement, a U.S.- and UN-sanctioned armed group that relies heavily on support from Rwanda.

ISIS-DRC historically relied on local resources and on former leader Jamil Mukulu’s international connections to raise funds but has received funding from ISIS-linked financing networks since 2017.  About one third of ISIS-DRC members, including its top leaders, are of Ugandan origin.  The group recruits primarily through coercion or deception, although in recent years it has attracted ideologically motivated foreign recruits from Burundi, Tanzania, Kenya, Somalia, and Rwanda.  Since 2021, DRC security forces have arrested Burundian, Jordanian, Kenyan, Rwandan, Tanzanian, Ugandan, and Congolese ISIS-DRC suspects.

2022 Terrorist Incidents:  In 2022 the Kivu Security Tracker documented 271 incidents in the DRC involving ISIS-DRC.  The UN documented 636 human rights abuses attributed to ISIS-DRC, a 14 percent decrease from 2021.  ISIS-DRC reportedly killed between 1,063 and 1,198 people, abducted between 714 and 839, and injured at least 174 in 2022, according to UN and Kivu Security Tracker data.

The DRC-Uganda joint military operations (Operation Shujaa) that began in November 2021 initially correlated with a sharp rise in ISIS-DRC attacks against civilians and other soft targets, including in Uganda, with ISIS-DRC expanding its operational territory into other areas of North Kivu and Ituri Provinces.  Many of these attacks took place in areas outside the operational area of Shujaa in North Kivu and Ituri Provinces, where ISIS-DRC had not previously operated.  The frequency of ISIS-DRC attacks began to decline steadily in mid-2022, as Shujaa military operations diminished their capability to resupply and recruit.  Military operations continued throughout 2022, resulting in at least 272 ISIS-DRC combatant deaths.

ISIS-DRC struck civilian targets primarily in rural areas but increased attacks in urban areas as well.  ISIS-DRC attempted a failed prison break in Beni in July and conducted a successful prison break in Butembo in August, releasing more than 800 prisoners, many of whom ISIS-DRC recruited into its ranks shortly thereafter.  The terrorist group continued to detonate IEDs, including in suicide bombings, in urban areas of North Kivu Province, including the cities of Beni, Butembo, Erengeti, and Goma.  ISIS-DRC conducted attacks on churches and health clinics, killing patients and medical professionals.  The organization regularly claims responsibility for these acts on ISIS propaganda websites.  Although an overwhelming majority of ISIS-DRC attacks in 2022 were within the DRC, the group continued to demonstrate its ability and willingness to conduct operations in Uganda.  In December, ISIS-DRC combatants entered Uganda and fought with Ugandan security forces, continuing ISIS-DRC’s strategy to launch attacks within Uganda to draw Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) assets back to positions inside of Uganda.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security:  The DRC has no comprehensive counterterrorism (CT) legislation.  Its National Assembly passed a draft CT bill in 2018 that stalled in the Senate.

The DRC shares 6,835 miles of land, lake, and river borders with nine countries but lacks the capacity to effectively patrol or secure them.  The DRC’s border authority, the Directorate General of Migration, uses the IOM Migration Information and Data Analysis System at only a fraction of the DRC’s more than 400 official border crossings.   ISIS-DRC recruitment networks rarely use official border crossings.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism:  The DRC is a member of the Task Force on Money Laundering in Central Africa (GABAC), and its FIU is the National Financial Intelligence Unit.  The DRC was added to the FATF “gray list” in 2022.

In October FATF reported the DRC made a high-level political commitment to work with FATF and GABAC to strengthen the effectiveness of its Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism regime.  Since the adoption of its mutual evaluation report in 2020, the DRC has made progress on some of the report’s recommended actions including making confiscation of proceeds of crime a policy priority.

Countering Violent Extremism:  There were no significant changes in 2022.

International and Regional Cooperation:  The DRC is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and participated in the Defeat-ISIS Ministerial in Marrakesh in May.  As the DRC joined the East African Community (EAC) in 2022, the EAC established the EAC Regional Force in part to compel foreign armed groups, including ISIS-DRC, to return to their countries of origin.  In 2022 the FARDC and the UPDF signed an MOU to facilitate the return of ISIS-DRC defectors to Uganda to benefit from Uganda’s amnesty and reintegration program.

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