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Jihadists of North Africa and the Sahel
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Book description

Jihadist movements have claimed that they are merely vehicles for the application of God's word, distancing themselves from politics, which they call dirty and manmade. Yet on closer examination, jihadist movements are immersed in politics, negotiating political relationships not just with the forces surrounding them, but also within their own ranks. Drawing on case studies from North Africa and the Sahel - including Algeria, Libya, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mauritania - this study examines jihadist movements from the inside, uncovering their activities and internal struggles over the past three decades. Highlighting the calculations that jihadist field commanders and clerics make, Alexander Thurston shows how leaders improvise, both politically and religiously, as they adjust to fast-moving conflicts. Featuring critical analysis of Arabic-language jihadist statements, this book offers unique insights into the inner workings of jihadist organisations and sheds new light on the phenomenon of mass-based jihadist movements and proto-states.


'Based on hard-won field research, this outstanding book uncovers the hidden politics of jihadist organizations in North Africa and the Sahel. Thurston’s masterful study demonstrates that jihadist commanders are political actors facing complex local pressures to adapt and accommodate. An essential read for security scholars and practitioners alike.'

Aisha S. Ahmad - University of Toronto

'The question of how to understand jihadi groups - global or local, as entirely distinctive by virtue of their unique ideology or as political groups that face the same basic challenges and opportunities as other insurgencies - has vexed scholars for decades. Thuston’s remarkable contribution is to show us how to take them seriously as ideologues and political actors, as believers and sophisticated political entrepreneurs and coalition-builders. In doing so, he offers us a new way to understand why some thrive and grow, and others fracture or fade.'

Brandon Kendhammer - Ohio University

‘Thurston has delved deeply into the local politics of jihadism and produced a very impressive analysis of a perplexing phenomenon.’

Robert Mortimer Source: Journal of North African Studies

‘Jihadists of North Africa and the Sahel is highly readable, written in an accessible style that is free of unnecessary jargon. The book can serve as a reference for anyone seeking to understand how Northwest Africa’s jihadist groups emerged, evolved, and relate to their societies as well as how their expansion was often helped by ill-conceived approaches to fight them.’

Wolfram Lacher Source: The Middle East Journal

'Jihadists represents a significant intervention that will interest researchers on conflict, political alliance-building, and Jihadism in the Sahel and elsewhere.'

Oliver Coates Source: Journal of African Military History

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