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 Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

This forum has been closed.
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.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs