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

US States Where Women Work for Free

Women earn less than men in all 50 states More

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

At a recent even in Seoul, border communities promoted benefits of increased cooperation and North Korean defectors shared stories of life since the war More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows Fight to Death Against IS

In wide-ranging interview, Fuad Masum describes new type of fight that will take time to win 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.
Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs