Al-Qaeda Africa wing dreams global, acts local

2013-12-16 15:04
Al-Shabaab. (AFP)

Al-Shabaab. (AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - Armed extremist groups in North and West Africa may have pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda's vision of global jihad, but they act independently of its core command and have yet to make good on threats to strike the West.

Counter-terrorism experts meeting in Washington noted an increase in anti-Western rhetoric from groups in the Sahel, Nigeria and Somalia, but said that African militant groups were still fighting local wars.

And the United States and its allies should be cautious, they warned, of intervening in these struggles and giving African Islamists a reason to expand their campaigns to target European and American interests.

Al-Qaeda's Yemeni franchise, once locked in a local struggle, is now an international threat that has put parcel bombs on planes and trained a Nigerian to make a failed suicide attack on a passenger jet.

"The movements in Africa - they all enjoy the al-Qaeda brand, they love the franchise. It gives them a certain panache," said Michael Hayden, former director of the US Central Intelligence Agency.

"But I'm not sure they want to become real enemies of the United States and they want to commit to the global Islamic caliphate," he added, referring to late al-Qaeda figurehead Osama bin Laden's goal of a single Muslim empire.

‘Clearly not controlled by al-Zawahiri’

Some groups, including the North African offshoot al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, had pledged allegiance to their late "sheikh," but bin Laden's deputy and successor Egyptian militant Ayman al-Zawahiri does not have the same star power.

"The jihadist movement in Africa is clearly not controlled by al-Zawahiri, if he controls anything," said Peter Pham of the Atlantic Council think tank.

"But the al-Qaeda brand helps some local groups to distinguish themselves from other local competitors.

"It gives them a bigger sense of meaning to attract young people and in some cases the al-Qaeda cachet helps them secure funding from overseas, especially the Gulf," he explained.

The African groups' ideological independence reflects their roots in different regional struggles, and has allowed them to latch onto and exploit causes such as Tuareg nationalism in Mali and northern Nigeria's resentment of corrupt governance.


But it also limits their real influence beyond their home areas, and even among diaspora African groups in the West.

From core al-Qaeda's point of view, groups like the Sahel's AQIM, Somalia's Shabaab and Nigeria's Boko Haram and Ansaru have a use mainly as propaganda for a movement sometimes seen as on the back foot.

"It serves al-Zawahiri to make the world believe he has more influence that he really has. He is a lonely man sitting in a house somewhere," said Pham.

"He has greater perception of impact if he can claim credit or partial credit for all these independent actors in Africa."

Read more on:    al-shabaab  |  al-qaeda  |  boko haram  |  east africa  |  west africa  |  security

Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


Zuma: Pray for peaceful polls

President Jacob Zuma has asked members of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God to pray for peaceful elections on 7 May.


Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
  • Saturday Newlands - 12:32 PM
    Road name: M3 Inbound
    DELAYS between Wynberg Hill and UCT due to 2 Oceans Marathon
  • Saturday Hout Bay - 12:31 PM
    Road name: Hout Bay Main Road
    EXPECT DELAYS between Hout Bay and Constantia due to 2 Oceans Marathon
More traffic reports...

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now! - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

BlackBerry Bold 9790

Bold Design The BlackBerry Bold 9790 smartphone combines the iconic BlackBerry...

From R2979.00

I'm shopping for:


Self-indulgence may be strong today. You may want to enjoy yourself to the fullest and share it with those that make you more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.