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

Tunnel Bombs Highlight Savagery of Aleppo Fight

Rebels have used tunneling tactic near government buildings, command posts or supply routes to set off explosives; they detonated their largest bomb this week under Syria's intelligence headquarters More

Sierra Leone Launches New Initiative to Stop Ebola Spread

Government hopes Infection and Prevention Control Units, IPC, will help protect patients and healthcare workers More

UN Official: Fight Against Terrorism Must Not Violate Human Rights

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says efforts by states to combat terrorism are resulting in large scale rights violations against the very citizens they claim to defend More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boyi
X
Jeff Seldin
March 05, 2015 2:36 AM
A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More