News / Africa

Africa Terrorism Threat Remains

Anne Look
2013 appears to have been the year the world woke up to African terrorism.  Military gains against Islamist extremists in places like Mali and Somalia were followed by major terrorist attacks in neighboring countries - highlighting how complex and persistent the threat really remains.

The year opened with a French military intervention in Mali.  Al-Qaida-linked fighters in control of the north were pushing south.

Malian troops could not have held them back alone.  But even as French and African troops liberated the north, jihadist fighters launched a revenge attack on a natural gas facility in Ain Amenas, Algeria, taking hundreds hostage and ultimately killing at least 36 foreigners.

Somalia looked to be turning a corner at the start of 2013.  Kenyan and African Union troops had chased the militant group al-Shabab from key urban strongholds.

But in September, a small number of al-Shabab militants attacked an upscale Nairobi shopping mall, killing more than 60 people and laying bare failings by Kenyan security and intelligence agencies.

The world watched as hundreds escaped.

Nigeria says it is turning the tide against the homegrown radical insurgency, Boko Haram, that it has wrestled with since 2009.

In May, Nigeria began an offensive against the sect.  The United Nations says the ongoing offensive has killed more than 1,200 people.  But Boko Haram continues to attack.

An all-too-familiar pattern is playing out in Africa.  Islamist insurgents seize territory where they can. They set up safe havens. They may even try to govern.  But faced with military action, they abandon their urban fiefdoms and disperse.  Some are killed.  Others live to strike back, joined by more young recruits.

Senegalese researcher Bakary Sambe says military intervention, in particular by Western forces, feeds radicalization.

"It's absurd to say you can make war on terrorism which by nature is constantly regenerating and evolving.  We also need to fight the causes of radicalization: poverty, a sense of frustration and rejection by the state, and under-development," said Sambe.
Analysts say al-Shabab remains the most organized and far-reaching of the African al-Qaida affiliates and that the publicity it got from the Westgate Mall attack revitalized the al-Shabab brand, helping it recruit internationally.

A Horn of Africa expert in Nairobi, Abdiwahab Sheikh Abdisamed, says the international community must keep up the pressure.

"They [al-Shabab]  have an agenda beyond Somalia.  They have an agenda beyond the region.  They are going to Islamize the whole world….by force, not by preaching, by force," said Abdisamed.

The United States and the European Union are keeping a close eye on these threats.  But with the exception of France, which continues to battle militants in Mali, Western powers say that in the year ahead, they will continue with the more hands-off approach of financing, assisting and training African troops to contain violent extremism.

Gabe Joselow contributed, reporting from Nairobi

You May Like

Unpaid Kurdish Fighters Sign of Economic Woes

Sharp cuts in Kurdistan's budget by Baghdad, falling oil revenue, coping with refugees, inflated public sector have hit regional economy hard More

Koreas Exchange List of Envoys for Family Reunion Talks

Officials will discuss date, venue and number of participants for reunion; Seoul hopes to hold event late this month More

China Targets 197 in Online Speech Crackdown

Nearly 200 punished for 'spreading rumors' online in ongoing crackdown on free speech More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 02, 2015 6:19 PM
Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.

VOA Blogs