Welcome to the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) Newsletter!


In this issue we highlight the situation in northeastern Nigeria, which has been the scene of an internecine conflict between two jihadist organizations for the past year and a half. In 2015, what was then Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati wal-Jihad (JAS) pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and fought under its banner as the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). In 2016, the organization split in two, when former leader of JAS, Abubakar Shekau, was demoted by IS central, and subsequently split off, re-launching JAS. Shekau retained the main base in Sambisa forest, near the border to Cameroon, while ISWAP relocated to the Lake Chad region. In 2021, heavy clashes between JAS and ISWAP broke out and on 19 May 2021 Shekau was killed in an engagement with ISWAP. Read more below.


Underlying all of the monthly updates, as well as the maps and graphs provided in the Newsletter is the UCDP Candidate Events Dataset which is updated on a monthly cycle.


Please feel free to contact us via ucdp@pcr.uu.se if you have any questions, suggestions, or comments.


Magnus Öberg

UCDP Director

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Mert Can Yilmaz, Uppsala Conflict Data Program

The war in Ukraine continued in April 2022 and while the Russian army withdrew from northern Ukraine on 2-3 April, intense fighting resumed in eastern Ukraine. During this month, IS stepped up its attacks against Afghan civilians. Suicide attacks and other explosions targeting Shia Hazara and Sufi minorities around the country resulted in at least 225 deaths. Given the lack of independent media in Afghanistan, fatality numbers are hard to confirm, and the UCDP high estimate of civilians killed in those attacks reaches almost 650.


While the trends in Europe dominated the figures on the fatalities due to armed organized violence, we noted a downward trend in Africa and the Middle East when compared to March 2022. Meanwhile, the intensity of organized violence in the Americas remained at a similar level, whereas the number of fatalities increased in Asia.


The five deadliest state-based conflicts in April were Russia – Ukraine, Ukraine: Novorossiya, Niger: Islamic State, Pakistan: Government, and Nigeria: Islamic State.


The non-state violence in April 2022 was dominated by armed clashes between Arab and Masalit ethnic groups in Sudan's West Darfur state. It is followed by the conflict between the Jalisco Cartel New Generation and various other cartels in Mexico. The non-state violence between IS and JAS in Nigeria was also noteworthy during this month.


DR Congo and Afghanistan were substantially affected by one-sided violence attributed to primarily IS in both countries in April 2022. IS's one-sided attacks in Afghanistan, DR Congo, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Syria, Mali, Egypt, Mozambique and Pakistan caused over 400 fatalities in total during this month. One-sided violence by the Russian forces in Ukraine should also be noted.

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Herman Wieselgren, Uppsala Conflict Data Program

19 May marks one year since the death of Abubakar Shekau, notorious and eccentric leader of the Nigerian jihadist group JAS, commonly known as Boko Haram. Since they split in 2016 there have been isolated clashes between JAS and its rival ISWAP, but mostly a state of uneasy coexistence. This trend was broken in early 2021 as clashes became deadlier and more frequent.


Clashes culminated in May 2021 when ISWAP fighters stormed Shekau's entrenched position in Sambisa forest and forced him to a stand-off. In a characteristically dramatic move Shekau detonated a suicide vest amid negotiations of surrender, killing himself and an ISWAP commander. His death weakened JAS considerably and with the exception of the Bakura faction in Lake Chad, ISWAP was able to coopt most JAS fighters in subsequent months. For a while, it seemed like ISWAP was achieving complete dominance in the jihadi landscape of northeastern Nigeria. However, as the year progressed, there was a resurgence of JAS, as several ex-JAS factions in ISWAP returned to their fold. The fall of 2021 and the first months of 2022 saw bloody non-state fighting between JAS, now under Bakura's leadership, and ISWAP. JAS has lost substantial swathes of territory to ISWAP, including the Sambisa forest base.


With the death of Shekau and the following diminution of JAS, the trends in organized violence in northeastern Nigeria have changed drastically. Non-state violence between JAS and ISWAP has increased, visible through the duplicate points present in both maps, while fatalities from other forms of violence dropped considerably. JAS, previously a notorious perpetrator of one-sided violence, has become almost inactive as a result of the ISWAP offensive. For ISWAP's part, state-based violence dropped considerably after May 2021 despite government efforts to keep ISWAP out of Sambisa forest. This lull is likely only temporary as ISWAP has had a chance to consolidate during 2021. With Shekau out of the picture, there are signs of expansion beyond the northeast. This past month has seen ISWAP claiming attacks in Taraba and Kogi states, far away from the Northeast.

The Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) is the world’s main provider of data on organized violence and the oldest ongoing data collection project for civil war, with a history of almost 40 years. Its definition of armed conflict has become the global standard of how conflicts are systematically defined and studied.


Uppsala Conflict Data Program