Jacob Zenn

Jacob Zenn is an adjunct assistant professor on African Armed Movements and Violent Non-State Actors in World Politics at the Georgetown University Security Studies Program (SSP) and editor of Terrorism Monitor and senior fellow on African and Eurasian Affairs for The Jamestown Foundation in Washington DC. He authored the book, Unmasking Boko Haram: Exploring Global Jihad in Nigeriawhich was published in April 2020 by Lynne Rienner in association with the Handa Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence, University of St Andrews. Zenn has also written on international security for academic journals such as Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Terrorism and Political Violence, Small Wars and Insurgencies, African Conflict and Peacebuilding Review, The Journal of Modern African Studies, Journal for De-Radicalization, African Security, and the International Journal of Not-for-Profit Law. He has also drafted several reports and monographs on Boko Haram, including editing a multi-authored report for the West Point Combating Terrorism Center in 2018 called ‘Boko Haram Beyond the Headlines: Analyses of Africa’s Enduring Insurgency.” He also co-authored a book (in Russian) in 2017 with Erlan Karin called “Between ISIS and Al-Qaeda: Central Asian Foreign Fighters in the Syrian War” and a book chapter with Svante Cornell called “Religion and the Secular State” in Uzbekistan’s New Face, which was edited by S. Frederick Starr and Svante E. Cornell and published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2018. Zenn graduated as a Global Law Scholar from Georgetown Law and from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) Nanjing Center for Chinese-American Studies in Nanjing, China and has studied Uighur and Persian at Xinjiang University and Samarkand State University. Follow @BokoWatch

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    Articles by Jacob Zenn

    Brief: ISCAP Attacks Western Tourists in Uganda

    On October 18, Islamic State in Central Africa Province (ISCAP) fighters killed two foreign tourists and their local guide at a roadway near Queen Elizabeth National Park in Kasese, western

    Brief: Indonesia Reins in Islamic State Remnants

    It has been nearly ten years since Indonesia’s elite counter-terrorism force, Densus 88, began hunting down the country’s most influential Islamic State (IS) loyalist, Santoso, in Sulawesi in 2015. The

    Brief: ISGS Returns to Burkina Faso in Force

    Amid constant battles with the al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for Supporters of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) in Mali, Islamic State in Greater Sahara (ISGS) appears to be moving deeper into Burkina Faso.

    Brief: JNIM Pursuing Localized Agenda in Mali

    In recent months, the northwestern Syria-based militant group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which operates under the leadership of Abu Muhammed al-Julani, has reasserted that its operational and geographical agenda is


    JNIM Kidnappings Continue Across West Africa With the world’s attention focused on issues like the insecurity arising from Russia’s war on Ukraine and the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, al-Qaeda’s affiliate


    The End of an Era: Has JNIM Finally Superseded AQIM? On December 23, the Group for Supporters of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) released a video showing speeches about jihad by


    Philippines Security Forces Halt Islamic State Attacks after Mindanao Bus Bombing On November 27, Philippine police conducted an operation at an Islamic State in Southeast Asia Province (ISEAP) hideout in


    Islamic State Jihadists in Mozambique Attack Tanzanian Troops On November 19, Islamic State in Mozambique Province (ISMP), which split from its Congo-based allies in what was formerly Islamic State in


    Islamic State in Greater Sahara Escalates Attacks Against al-Qaeda’s Sahelian Affiliate Since Islamic State in Greater Sahara (ISGS)’s August 10 attack in Tessit, Mali that killed 42 soldiers, the group


    Defections and Leadership Losses are Leading to Abu Sayyaf’s Demise Philippine army operations are further eroding the threat from Abu Sayyaf at the same time as Indonesian security forces are


    Somali Government Seeks to Stymie al-Shabaab Funding and Propaganda Despite numerous efforts to counter financing to al-Shabaab on a global scale, on October 8, the Somali government demanded businesses in


    ISWAP Expands into Ondo and Edo in Southern Nigeria    Islamic State in West African Province (ISWAP) has developed new tactics and strategies since ejecting Abubakar Shekau from the eponymous “Boko


    Myanmar Faces Arakan Army Attacks in Rakhine State Since intelligence agencies began observing ties between certain, albeit possibly peripheral, Rakhine [Arakan] militant groups and Islamic State (IS), jihadism has often


    Mozambican Militants Launch New Offensive On September 2, Portugal’s Prime Minister, António Costa, completed a two-day official visit to Mozambique, where the main focus of his meetings with his Mozambican


    Abu Sayyaf’s Local and Global Prospects Look Increasingly Grim in the Philippines In one of the most recent counter-insurgency successes against Abu Sayyaf, the Philippines army announced that 100 former


    Thai Military Continues Counter-Insurgency Operations Amid Peace Process Jacob Zenn Amid rising hopes for a more inclusive peace process in southern Thailand, the Thai military is continuing its counter-insurgency operations


    ISWAP's Kuje Prison Break Points to Expansion of Operations Throughout Nigeria Jacob Zenn In one of the most dramatic, and surprising, attacks in the history of the now 13-years long


    Taliban Outreach to India and China Indicates New Diplomatic Phase In the Taliban’s continued quest to gain international legitimacy and abandon its reputation for “terrorism,” it has been increasingly establishing


    New Alignments Emerge Among Al-Qaeda's West African Affiliates In late 2021, al-Qaeda’s Nigerian affiliate, Ansaru, pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which formalized the relationship between the


    Uighur Jihadism Fades Into Obscurity Jacob Zenn A decade ago, at the onset of the Syrian civil war, Uighur militants joined the forefront of the jihadist movement. Originally based in


    Al-Qaeda’s Malian Affiliate Targets Russia’s Wagner Group Jacob Zenn On April 25, the al-Qaeda affiliate in Mali, Group for Supporters of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), claimed that it kidnapped Russian


    Islamic State in West Africa Province’s Unprecedented Expansion in Nigeria Jacob Zenn When compared to the Syria and Iraq provinces, Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) is the Islamic


    Islamic State Congo Steps up Attacks in Bid to Become its own Province Jacob Zenn The Congo branch of the Islamic State in Central Africa Province (ISCAP) is increasingly following


    Is Myanmar’s Military Junta Quashing the Insurgency Through Domestic Crackdowns and Regional Outreach? Jacob Zenn Since Myanmar’s February 2021 military coup to overturn the democratically elected victory of Aung San


    Indonesia Keeps Close Tabs on Jemaa Islamiyah and Jihadists in Sulawesi Jacob Zenn Indonesia stands out as one of the few countries in the world that can claim it has


    Al-Qaeda’s Malian Affiliate Celebrates French Withdrawal Jacob Zenn On February 17, France announced its withdrawal of troops from Mali (France24.com, February 17). President Emmanuel Macron noted that victory was “impossible”


    Tajikistan Maintains Cool Ties with the Taliban Jacob Zenn Since the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021, several Central Asian states have accepted the reality on the ground and


    Chinese Interests Come Under Pressure in Myanmar’s Insurgency Jacob Zenn China’s involvement in economic projects in Pakistan has riled ethnic-based insurgent groups, which believe their peoples’ interests are being ignored,


    Nigeria’s Ansaru Raises Profile on al-Qaeda’s Media Agenda Jacob Zenn After several years of a media hiatus following Boko Haram Shekau faction’s and Islamic State in West Africa Province’s (ISWAP) attacks, al-Qaeda’s


    ISCAP's Congo Branch Changes Tactics to Targeting Civilians Jacob Zenn Although the nature of ties between the Islamic State’s (IS) centralized leadership and the Islamic State in Central Africa Province’s


    Al-Qaeda’s Sahelian Affiliates Increases Attack Tempo in Mali, Burkina Faso and Benin Jacob Zenn The Sahelian al-Qaeda affiliate, Group for Supporters of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), has not been attracting


    Al-Qaeda’s Nigerian Affiliate Ansaru Resurfaces in First Long Video Since 2015 Jacob Zenn The Nigerian al-Qaeda affiliate, Jamaatu Ansarul Muslimina fi Biladis Sudan (Ansaru), had not released any detailed propaganda


    Togo Suffers First Al-Qaeda-Affiliated Jihadist Attack On November 11, Togo announced that it had suffered the first ever jihadist terrorist attack on its territory. According to the country’s security forces,


    Anti-Taliban Resistance Struggles for Relevance in Afghanistan After initially attempting to launch an insurgency against the Taliban following the its conquest of Kabul in August, Ahmad Massoud,  the son of


    Islamic State Claims First Operation in Uganda as Rwanda Upgrades its Counter-Terrorism Capacity On October 7, Uganda announced that its police force had killed a 25-year-old resident of Kampala, Hamid


    Islamic State’s Canadian ‘Voice’ Facing Terrorism Charges in the U.S.    During Islamic State (IS)’s heyday, before the collapse of its ‘territorial caliphate’ in Iraq and Syria in 2019, a


    Uzbekistan and Tajikistan Calibrate Approaches to the Taliban On September 11, the grand mufti of Tajikistan, Saidmukarrim Abdulqoddirzoda, issued an edict calling the Taliban a “terrorist group” and declared that


    Anti-Taliban Resistance in Afghanistan’s Panjshir Finds Support in Tajikistan Jacob Zenn On September 4, videos surfaced of Afghan Taliban forces reaching the Panjshir governor’s office (Twitter/@hamimafghan, September 4). This appeared


    Uyghur Jihadists Prominent in Syria Now Face an Unclear Future in Afghanistan  Jacob Zenn The Uyghur-led Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) had its roots in 1990s-era Afghanistan and was comprised of


    Myanmar Insurgency Matures as Fighting Against the Tatmadaw Intensifies  Jacob Zenn The roughly half-year long low-level insurgency against Myanmar’s ruling Tatmadaw, as the armed forces is called, continues to brew,


    Suicide Bombing in Congo Indicates Growing Influence of Islamic State Affiliate Jacob Zenn On June 29, Islamic State in Central Africa Province (ISCAP) claimed its first ever suicide bombing at


    Militants Target Chinese Nationals in the Sahel and Nigeria Jacob Zenn China is increasing its influence in West Africa. Most recently, on June 11, China’s State Councilor and Foreign Minister


    Indonesia Battles Dual Threat of Jihadism and Separatism Jacob Zenn Last month, four farmers in Poso, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia were decapitated by militants affiliated with Mujahidin Indonesia Timor (MIT) (Benar


    Peru's Shining Path Guerillas Launch New Attacks in Apurimac Valley Jacob Zenn For nearly a decade, Peru’s Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) Marxist militants have been in decline, with the group’s


    Killing of Boko Haram Leader Abubakar Shekau Boosts Islamic State in Nigeria Jacob Zenn On May 21, reports emerged from Nigeria, and especially from Boko Haram insider journalist Ahmed Salkida’s


    One Year After the Death of Abdelmalek Droukdel AQIM Falls into Obscurity Jacob Zenn Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has been considered a stalwart affiliate of al-Qaeda since its predecessor


    JNIM Conducts First Claimed Attack in Mali’s Sikasso Region Jacob Zenn Mali’s Sikasso Region borders Burkina Faso and Côte d'Ivoire, but has been devoid of the violence that has afflicted


    Media Mystery Surrounds Islamic State Conquests in Mozambique Jacob Zenn On March 25, the Islamic State in Central African Province (ISCAP)’s Mozambique branch raided the town of Palma in northeastern


    Colombia Faces Mixed Futures in Negotiations with FARC and ELN  Jacob Zenn In 2016, Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) concluded a peace deal that has led


    Scandinavian Countries Contend with Lingering Influence of Islamic State Jacob Zenn In recent weeks, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark have experienced incidents involving Islamic State (IS) members and supporters operating on


    Is al-Qaeda’s Nigerian Affiliate Ansaru Behind Ahmad Gumi’s Negotiations with Bandits? Jacob Zenn  On February 5, Nigerian Islamic scholar Ahmad Gumi negotiated with bandit leaders in northwestern Nigeria to bring


    Indonesian Jemaah Islamiya Founder Abubakar Baasyir’s Quiet Release From Prison  Jacob Zenn In 2019, the Indonesian government decided it would release Jemaah Islamiya founder Abubakar Baasyir from prison earlier than


    Proud Boys and Antifa Face Uncertain Futures After Capitol Siege  Jacob Zenn  After the January 6 Capitol storming, the Proud Boys are reassessing tactics. The group formed in 2017 to


    Russia Defends ‘Protectorate’ in Central African Republic as Rebels Advance Jacob Zenn  France has historically been the major Western power guaranteeing political stability in the Francophone countries of northwest and


    Malawi and Zimbabwe’s Improbable Interventions Against Islamic State in Mozambique Jacob Zenn Amid Islamic State (IS) fighters’ continued insurgency in northern Mozambique, which has extended into southern Tanzania since October,


    Islamic State in Greater Sahara Sets Sights on Burkina Faso Jacob Zenn In late 2019, Islamic State (IS)’s Sahel-based fighters under the leadership of Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi surged ahead


    Islamic State Receives Loyalty Pledge from Myanmar’s Rohingya Militants  Jacob Zenn Since 9/11, Islamic militants in virtually every country where they are waging an insurgency have allied or affiliated themselves


    Embattled France Rebuffs Negotiations After al-Qaeda Hostage Exchange in Mali Jacob Zenn On October 11, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)’s sub-affiliate in Mali, Group for Supporters of Muslims and

    AQIM’s Resurgence: Responding to Islamic State

    AQIM’s Resurgence: Responding to Islamic State Jacob Zenn and Dario Cristiani Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and its allied militant groups have undergone something of an operational revival since

    AFP Quotes Jacob Zenn

    Jamestown Fellow Jacob Zenn was quoted by the AFP on the possibility of improving relations between Boko Haram (a.k.a. Islamic State West Africa Province) and Islamic State provinces in Libya in the

    Jacob Zenn Quoted in Al-Monitor

    Jacob Zenn discussed the importance of Central Asian fighters to both the Islamic State's and Jabhat al-Nusra's battles in Syria with Metin Gurcan and Al-Monitor.

    Jacob Zenn Cited by the AP

    The AP cited Jacob Zenn's recent report on a number of Boko Haram fighters fighting with the Islamic State's branch in Libya. 

    Jacob Zenn Quoted by Voice of America

    Jacob Zenn, an analyst of African affairs for Jamestown, discussed the upcoming visit of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to Washington, DC with VOA

    New York Times Quotes Jacob Zenn

    The New York Times quoted Jacob Zenn in a article on how Boko Haram and the Islamic State courted each other before the former declared allegiance to the latter.

    Jacob Zenn Quoted by CNN

    CNN discussed Boko Haram's social media outreach to the Islamic State with Jacob Zenn, an African affairs analyst with Jamestown.

    Jacob Zenn Quoted by Business Day

    Jacob Zenn, a Eurasian and African affairs analyst for Jamestown, was quoted on the relative strength of the Nigerian Army to Boko Haram for Business Day, a South African newspaper.

    LA Times Quotes Jacob Zenn

    Jacob Zenn recently discussed Turkey's relationship with China in the context of Uighur migrants with the LA Times.

    AP Quoted Jacob Zenn

    Jacob Zenn, an African and Eurasian affairs analyst for Jamestown, discussed Boko Haram's attack of Maiduguri, northeast Nigeria's largest city.

    Jacob Zenn Quoted by Time

    Time discussed Boko Haram's attacks in the context of Nigeria's upcoming presidential elections with Jacob Zenn.

    Vice News Quoted Jacob Zenn

    Jacob Zenn, an African affairs analyst for Jamestown, discussed the increasingly important role that women have played in Boko Haram's attacks in Nigeria with Vice News.

    Jacob Zenn Quoted by Wall Street Journal

    Jacob Zenn, an African affairs analyst for Jamestown, discussed Boko Haram's attempts to govern the territory under the militant group's control with the Wall Street Journal.

    VOA Quotes Jacob Zenn

    Jacob Zenn, an African affairs analyst, discussed Boko Haram's use of female suicide bombers in recent attacks in Nigeria with Voice of America.


    REAPPEARANCE OF ‘SLAIN’ DAGESTANI MILITANT DISPROVES FSB CLAIMS Mairbek Vatchagaev Practically every month, Moscow boastfully announces that it has killed a leader of one of the territorial branches of the

    Al-Jazeera quotes Jacob Zenn

    Jacob Zenn, a Jamestown analyst, was quoted in an article on increased U.S. cooperation with Mauritania against terrorists.

    NPR Interviews Jacob Zenn

    Jacob Zenn was interviewed for a story on NPR's Morning Edition on the recent terrorist attacks in China and their possible foreign support.

    Jacob Zenn Quoted by Vice News

    Jamestown Analyst Jacob Zenn was quoted in an article on how the global campaign #Bringbackourgirls will not have an impact on Boko Haram.

    USA Today Quotes Jacob Zenn

    Jamestown analyst Jacob Zenn was quoted in an background article on Boko Haram, the Nigerian militant organization, by USA Today.

    Jacob Zenn Quoted by NBC News on Boko Haram

    Jamestown analyst Jacob Zenn was quoted in an article by NBC News on possible negotiations with Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram for the more than 250 schoolgirls that were abducted.

    Toronto Star Quotes Jacob Zenn

    In an article on recent bombings carried out by Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram, Jamestown Analyst Jacob Zenn was quoted by Toronto Star.

    Jacob Zenn Interviewed by CNN

    Jamestown analyst Jacob Zenn was interviewed by CNN about recent Boko Haram attacks and Nigeria's response to the terrorist group. 


    MUHAMMAD MAJID AL-KHATIB: A RISING LEADER IN THE FREE SYRIAN ARMY  Nicholas A. Heras  The Free Syrian Army (FSA) fired its military chief Salim Idriss on February 16 for being

    Jacob Zenn cited by Think Africa Press

    Jacob Zenn was cited by Think Africa Press regarding the Islamist militant group Ansaru, which is targeting Western interests in and around northern Nigeria

    Tiananmen Attack: Global, Local or Both

    On October 23, in Beijing, a driver crashed his Jeep into a gate in Tiananmen Square, setting off an explosion that killed two foreign tourists, the driver and his two

    Tiananmen Attack: Global, Local or Both?

    On October 23, in Beijing, a driver crashed his Jeep into a gate in Tiananmen Square, setting off an explosion that killed two foreign tourists, the driver and his two

    Afghan and Syrian Links to Central Asian Jihadism

    Since September 2013, Central Asian jihadists, including returnees from Syria, have attempted to carry out high-profile attacks in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Other Central Asian jihadists in Syria have increasingly publicized

    China and the SCO: Dead Wood but a Good Platform

    In the week before the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit in Bishkek on September 12, Chinese General Secretary Xi Jinping visited four countries on China’s western flank—Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and

    Jacob Zenn quoted by Reuters

    Jamestown analyst Jacob Zenn was quoted by Reuters in an article titled "Nigeria backlash against Boko Haram spurs risky vigilante war."

    China Claims Uyghur Militants Trained in Syria

    The Chinese government has claimed since 2012 that Uyghur militants from Xinjiang are fighting with the rebels in Syria against the government of Bashar al-Assad (Global Times [Beijing], October 29,

    March Briefs

    SECTARIAN ATTACKS AND RISING TENSION IN QUETTA, PAKISTAN Nicholas A. Heras Sectarian attacks and rising tension have risen in a natural resource-rich province in southwestern Pakistan over the last few

    January 2013 Briefs

    CAPTURED SHINING PATH LEADER REFUSES TO REMAIN SILENT AT TRIAL  The leader of the Shining Path faction in the Upper Huallaga Valley, Comrade Artemio, was captured in February 2012 after

    December 2012 Briefs

    AQIM LEADERS MOKHTAR BELMOKHTAR AND ABDELMALEK DROUKDEL SPLIT  Mokhtar Belmokhtar is an Algerian-born former commander of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). In July, he was reported to have been

    November 2012 Briefs

    DRONE STRIKE KILLS 2008 EMBASSY ATTACKER ADNAN AL-QADHI NEAR SANAA  A drone strike on a car in a village less than 40 kilometers from the Yemeni capital, Sanaa on November

    Boko Haram’s Growing Presence in Niger

    The recent arrests of Boko Haram members in the Niger town of Zinder come at a time when the Islamist movement’s fighters are taking advantage of the porosity of the

    October 2012 Briefs

    SWISS JUND AL-KHILAFAH AMIR KILLED IN MIRANSHAH, PAKISTAN Jund al-Khilafah (JaK) is a terrorist group based in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, which was founded by three Kazakhstani men from Atyrau

    August 2012 Briefs

    IMU ANNOUNCES USMAN GHAZI AS NEW AMIR AFTER MONTHS OF DELIBERATION The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) announced in a statement that Usman Ghazi is the IMU’s new amir (high-ranking Sheikh), taking

    Instability in Nigeria: The Domestic Factors

    On June 19, 2012, The Jamestown Foundation held a conference on Boko Haram entitled "Threats to Nigeria's Security: Boko Haram and Beyond" at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in

    July 2012 Briefs

    NEW AQ LEADER IN PAKISTAN TAKES COMMAND AS ATTACKS ON NATO CONVOYS CONTINUE On July 18, 2012, a bomb exploded in a fuel tanker after which insurgents opened fire on

    June 2012 Briefs

    SAUDI ARABIA, U.S. AND INDIA COOPERATE TO CAPTURE MUMBAI “26/11” ATTACKER ABU JINDAL Syed Zabihuddin Ansari (a.k.a Abu Jundal) is infamous for being the “voice” that delivered orders from a

    May 2012 Briefs

    UGANDA CAPTURES LRA COMMANDER CAESAR ACELLAM Caesar Acellam was captured with his wife, daughter and a helper by the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) on May 13 while crossing the

    April 2012 Briefs

    PAKISTANI TALIBAN JAILBREAK OPERATION FREES ADNAN RASHID Adnan Rashid was one of 384 inmates freed from a prison in Bannu, Pakistan on April 13 (Daily Times [Peshawar], April 16). The

    March 2012 Briefs

    INTELLIGENCE LEADS ATS TO BIHAR IN SEARCH OF INDIAN MUJAHIDEEN’S YASIN BHATKAL India’s anti-terrorism squad (ATS) picked up clues about the location of the operational leader of the Indian Mujahideen

    February 2012 Briefs

    ABU SAYYAF AND JEMAAH ISLAMIYA MEMBERS KILLED IN AIRSTRIKE An airstrike on an Abu Sayyaf camp on the island of Jolo in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Philippines on

    January 2012 BRIEFS

    ABU SHEKAU ISSUES VIDEO MESSAGE TO NIGERIAN PRESIDENT Abu Shekau, the leader of the Jama’atu Ahlis Sunnati Lidda’awati Wal Jihad, popularly known as Boko Haram, issued a message on YouTube