In Brief

African counter-terrorism ‘is creating extremists’

The UN says a heavy-handed approach by governments is a primary factor pushing people into violent groups

Counter-extremism measures deployed by African governments to tackle insurgency actually push more people into violent groups, according to the UN.

The finding, from one of the largest studies of its kind, "is likely to prompt controversy", says The Guardian.

Of more than 500 former members of violent militant organisations interviewed in the report, 71 per cent pointed to "government action", including "killing of a family member or friend" or "arrest of a family member or friend", as the incident that prompted them to join a group.

"In a majority of cases, paradoxically, state action appears to be the primary factor finally pushing individuals into violent extremism in Africa," the report says. "State security-actor conduct is revealed as a prominent accelerator of recruitment, rather than the reverse."

The UN estimates violent extremism has killed more than 33,000 people in Africa in the past six years.

Across the continent, the authorities have been accused of deploying heavy-handed tactics as they battle extremist groups such as Boko Harem, al-Shabaab and numerous other Islamic State and al-Qaeda offshoots. Kenya's government is alleged to be behind scores of extrajudicial killings, while Amnesty International has accused the Nigerian military of systematic human rights abuses.

Many of those interviewed expressed frustration at their economic situation, but more than three quarters said dissatisfaction with their government and politicians was a major factor in pushing them towards extremism.

Many security experts blame religious education for the spread of extremism, but although more than half of respondents cited religion as a reason for joining a group, 57 per cent admitted they knew little or nothing of religious texts.

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