News

Report: Al Qaida Finding Fertile Ground in Africa

Henry Ridgwell

From eastern shores of Somalia to western borders of Mali, there has been an upsurge in Islamist violence across Africa.

A new report from Britain's Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) cites growing evidence that al-Qaida is expanding its reach via a network of affiliates and partnerships across the continent.

According to London-based security analyst Valentina Soria, author of "Global Jihad Sustained Through Africa," the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan is forcing the terror organization's central leadership to look beyond their traditional heartland.

"The aim is now for the central leadership to try to forge strategic relationships with like-minded groups in Africa ... like al-Shabab, and obviously strengthen the already existing relationship with AQIM, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb," she says, adding that al Qaeda is also working with other terror organizations to secure stable footholds in volatile countries.

In Somalia, for example, where al-Shabab is active, Soria says al-Qaida's Islamist agenda is key to drawing in fighters who carry out increasingly sophisticated attacks on government forces and African Union peacekeepers.

"The first thing for these groups is the ability to attract recruits ... who may well be attracted by the more transnational aims that these groups [such as al Qaeda] might pursue, rather than the more localized agenda," she says.

Al-Qaida's African affiliates in turn provide expertise to localized Islamist groups. Boko Haram in Nigeria, for example, has recently staged a series of deadly attacks on Christian and government targets.

"There is the availability of experts going to provide some kind of expertise and know-how to Boko Haram fighters," she says, "and also Boko Haram fighters travelling to join training camps run by both al-Shabab and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb."

Soria says recent conflicts in north and west Africa - such as the Tuareg rebellion in northern Mali - have provided more opportunities for militant groups to prosper.

"In Libya, for example, [we saw] the easy availability of weapons, which enabled groups like AQIM to strengthen themselves," she says, adding that the current crisis in Mali represents "fertile ground for al-Qaida to reorganize and re-energize its campaign against the West."

Richard Dowden, director of Britain’s Royal African Society, says al-Qaida and its affiliates are bringing a different type of warfare to the continent.

"This phenomenon of having a religious movement, an Islamic movement, and letting off car bombs and things like that, is completely new," he says.

However, Dowden cautions against fears that all of Africa is vulnerable to Islamic insurgents such as Somalia's al-Shabab.

"I think [al-Shabab is] trying to establish this Islamic state, but I think that’s completely different from what's happening in Nigeria, and different again from what's happening in Mali and across that area," says Dowden. "They’re obviously influenced by Islamic fundamentalism but I don’t think it’s coordinated. They may be learning from each other but they’re not working together."

While Islamist militant groups may pose a growing threat in places like Nigeria and Mali, analysts also warn of the potential for so-called "home-grown" terrorists to seek training and support in Africa for staging attacks in the West.

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.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs