What factors explain the great variation in the target selection of VE groups in Africa? Some tend to focus their attacks mostly on official targets while others show a relative preference for civilians. Most, however, tend to typically change their target selection over time. This article demonstrates that the logic of violence in Africa’s fragile, conflict-prone states is driven by four factors: (1) The degree to which VE groups rely on local support to maintain the insurgency; (2) the dynamics of in-group/out-group differentiation and corresponding hostility; (3) inter-group rivalry and looming power shifts; and (4) the strategies of counterinsurgency employed by governments.

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This article was originally published in Perspectives on Terrorism.