News / Africa

African Al-Qaida Group Targeting Foreign Companies to Build Popular Support

As African terrorists affiliated with al-Qaida target corporate interests in the Sahel as part of a campaign to boost popular support, regional governments are trying to better coordinate their response.

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb focuses mainly on bombing military outposts and kidnapping tourists and foreign aid workers.

Last week's abduction of construction consultants, however, from Togo and Madagascar, along with five French engineers, shows the group is expanding its campaign of violence to portray itself as defending the region against foreign commercial exploitation.

The French nuclear energy firm Areva is mining one of the world's richest deposits of uranium in Niger.  Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb spokesman Salah Abu Mohammed said uranium is a strategic resource that France has been stealing for decades.

Mohammed said foreign companies that are exploiting the natural resources of the Sahel must know that they are legitimate targets of Muslim freedom fighters.  He said those companies should leave quickly because they are illegally exhausting the region's resources.

Al-Qaida in Islamic Maghreb tries to position itself

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, which is also known by its initials AQIM, began in Algeria in 1992 as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat.

Political analyst Joseph Kirschke says the violence of the Algerian conflict led the group to market itself as the defender of oppressed civilians.

"These guys are kind of left overs from a really messy civil war that only ended about ten years ago, and they are trying really hard to gain legitimacy," said Kirschke.

"There were all kinds of civilian casualties in that conflict.  AQIM came out of that conflict with a great sort of mandate to spare civilian lives and to come out as sort of the Robin Hood type players in the al-Qaida franchise, if you will," said Kirschke.

AQIM says it kidnapped three Spanish aid workers, for example, because Spain is a member of the NATO alliance, which it says is an instrument of foreign military aggression. AQIM killed a French hostage in Mali after French and Mauritanian troops tried unsuccessfully to free him.

In a statement read on the Al-Jazeera television network, the al-Qaida group vowed to revenge the killing of six of its fighters during the Franco-Mauritanian raid, calling on citizens of the Sahel to join in retaliating against France and its allies.

Coordinated military pressure increases

Military pressure on al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb is growing.  Hundreds of French commandos are in the Sahel to help search for the kidnapped uranium engineers. Also, Mauritania's army struck an AQIM supply convoy near the Malian city of Timbuktu last week.

Political analyst Isselmou Ould Mustapha said Mauritania is taking the fight to al-Qaida.  Mustapha said the battle now is in areas of the Sahel where al-Qaida previously felt free to operate.  He said they are on defense as they are being pushed farther back into the desert.

Mustapha said AQIM is not as strong as it once was, in part, because Mauritania's military has them on the run as part of a strategy of self-defense by attack.

When it comes to al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, the U.N. Special Representative for West Africa Said Djinnit said there is no alternative to regional cooperation with international support.  "How can you expect poor countries with weak governance, institutions, structures and capacities to effectively control such huge territories inhabited by nomads and people with very long standing culture and traditions, which resists any change because they want to stay in their territory, and yet with the feeling of neglect?''

AQIM seeks Islamic rule

Political analyst Kirschke says al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb is using under-development to push for greater Islamic rule.

"They are trying really hard to stand up for the everyman, so to speak, in the region.  In the bigger picture, I think they have the same interests that al-Qaida does everywhere in terms of drawing Western military forces into the region and focusing on creating a caliphate, a larger state dedicated to Islamic or Sharia law throughout the Islamic world," said Kirschke.

Regional approach by governments deemed essential

The U.N.'s Djinnit said only a coordinated, regional approach can prevent al-Qaida from expanding to countries such as Burkina Faso and linking up with what he calls "extremist elements" in northern Nigeria.  "I always feared that what is happening in this small part of the Sahel would increasingly expand to affect other parts of West Africa, either directly or through ramifications networks. That remains my fear."

Greater regional cooperation in the fight against al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb is slowed by mistrust and weakness in internal security, especially in Mali.  Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger are working on a joint plan of action to confront AQIM, which is thought to be regrouping along the borders of Algeria, Mali and Niger after being driven from its original bases along the Algerian coast.

You May Like

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid