Fears as Africa faces new 'arc of terror'

2012-07-06 08:06
Shutterstock

Shutterstock

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

Dakar - From east to west Africa, a rise in Islamic extremism has led to a surge in deadly attacks and kidnappings by groups linked to al-Qaeda, sparking fears of a new "arc of terror" on the continent.

While these groups are mostly occupied with domestic issues, their anti-western rhetoric and targeting of foreigners pose a wider challenge. So too does growing evidence of ties between armed groups from the Sahel and east Africa and Nigeria, observers say.

The three main al-Qaeda-linked groups are Somalia's Shabaab in the Horn of Africa; al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim) which is active across the Sahel; and Boko Haram, which has sharply increased its attacks in Nigeria since 2010.

"We do have enough evidence of some communication between Boko Haram and Aqim and affiliated groups," a Washington DC-based analyst focused on the Sahel told AFP.

However, while both Boko Haram and Aqim had claimed support or training from Shabaab, this had not been confirmed, he added.

General Carter Ham, head of US African command Africom, warned in September 2011 that the various Islamist groups had said they wanted to "more closely collaborate and synchronise their efforts" in training and operations.

"If left unaddressed, you could have a network that ranges from East Africa, through the centre and into the Sahel and Maghreb, and I think that would be very, very worrying."

The seizure by hardline Islamists of northern Mali has also stoked fears abroad.

Long a base for Aqim, involved in drug trafficking and the kidnapping of westerners for ransom, the region is now in the hands of Islamists intent on installing sharia law, who have openly allied with the al-Qaeda franchise.

New breeding ground

Former colonial power France has repeatedly raised concerns that the vast desert could become a new breeding ground for terrorism.

Aqim grew out of the Algerian Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat which linked with al-Qaeda in 2006.

"We pray to God that they will be a thorn in the side of the American and French crusaders and their allies," al-Qaeda's then number two and now leader Ayman al-Zawahiri said at the time.

In January a United Nations report said ties had been established between Boko Haram in Nigeria and Aqim, along with its splinter group, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) - and the Islamist fighters Ansar Dine (Defenders of Faith), who currently control Timbuktu in Mali.

Northern Mali lawmaker Abdou Sidibe has said "a good one hundred" Boko Haram fighters had been seen in Gao, which is controlled by MUJAO. They are believed to be attending a MUJAO-run training camp.

In Nigeria, Boko Haram has dramatically stepped up attacks on churches, government installations and other targets since resurfacing in 2010 after being crushed in a deadly government offensive a year earlier.

The US State Department, which last month designated three Boko Haram leaders as global terrorists, says the group has killed more than 1 000 people since the beginning of 2011.

Despite some evidence of links to other African jihadists, however, some observers insist the group has a narrow domestic focus in a region crippled by poverty.

Professor Kyari Mohammed of Modibbo Adama University in Yola, a specialist on Boko Haram, is sceptical of claims that the group has extensive foreign ties.

Real danger

"It's a local insurgency, but they are aware of global events," he said.

Statements boasting of its foreign links were possibly a bid to raise its stature as a global, extremist Islamist movement, he argued.

The links between Shabaab and west African Islamists are also disputed.

On Monday, Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga expressed concern the Shabaab "could link up with other terrorist groups like Boko Haram in Nigeria".

He was the day after masked gunmen killed 17 people in attacks on two churches, the worst such attack for a decade.

But the Shabaab themselves have offered little public support for other African Islamists, speaking instead of ties to the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Nevertheless, some experts such as Ahmedou Ould Abadallah, creator of the Centre for Strategy and Security for the Sahel and Sahara, are convinced the ties run deeper.

"There are Shabaab Somalians in the Sahel region and I am sure they have links with Aqim and Boko Haram. I have material proof," said Abadallah, a former UN representative for west Africa.

"It is a real danger. They all consider themselves fighters for Islam."

Shehu Sani, author of The Killings Fields: Religious Violence in Northern Nigeria, said he believed the various groups were "relating with each other even if they are not working together.

"If you link the Chadian rebels, Boko Haram, the Tuaregs in Niger and now the rebels in northern Mali, you can see on the horizon an arc of terror. It's not an axis of evil, it's an arc."

Read more on:    aqim  |  al-shabaab  |  al-qaeda  |  ansar dine  |  boko haram  |  mali  |  nigeria  |  somalia  |  algeria  |  africa
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com 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
3 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Wednesday Delft - 20:37 PM
    Road name: R300 Southbound
    ROADWORKS - left lane closed at Hindle Road
  • Wednesday Sir Lowry's Pass - 17:57 PM
    Road name: Old Sir Lowrys Pass Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Bezweni Road
 
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!

Kalahari.com - 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 kalahari.com. 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 kalahari.com’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

Apple iPad 2 White 16GB 9.7" Tablet With WiFi & 3G

Two cameras for FaceTime and HD video recording. The dual-core...

From R5727.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may be required to travel or get information for your job. This may be restricting in some way or something may slow things...read more

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

Hello 

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 24.com network.

Settings

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.