News / Africa

French Defeat of Islamist Militants May Be Fleeting

French Defeat of Islamist Militants May Be Fleetingi
X
January 31, 2013 9:33 PM
French forces pushing Islamist militants out of their last strongholds in northern Mali have been met with cheers and gratitude. Only there may not be time for much celebration. French officials are already hinting their forces may leave as soon as possible. And, as VOA's Jeff Seldin reports, the threat to Mali and all of northern Africa and the Sahel is far from over.
French forces pushing Islamist militants out of their last strongholds in northern Mali have been met with cheers and gratitude. Only there may not be time for much celebration. French officials are already hinting their forces may leave as soon as possible. But analysts say the threat to Mali and all of northern Africa and the Sahel is far from over.

Militant Islamists have been driven by French and Malian forces back into the desert sands.

Just don't expect them to stay hidden for long.

“You can kill them here. You can kill them there. They're going to go someplace else," said Daniel Serwer, who is with the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
 
Over the past few years al-Qaida-linked groups like Ansar Dine have been finding the empty, ungoverned spaces across northern Africa and the Sahel ideal places for launching attacks and strengthening their forces.

Now, as Sajjan Gohel with the London-based Asia Pacific Foundation says, they are getting bolder.

“What we're seeing in North Africa is the ascendancy of al-Qaida’s affiliates, especially groups like al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb,” Gohel said.

And there are some stark differences between these affiliates and the al-Qaida of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri.

“Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb has no problem in conducting criminal activity, holding people hostage for ransom, taking part in the illegal distribution of drugs and narcotics. This shows they are able to fund themselves,” Gohel said.

One of the leaders of this criminal element is Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a one-eyed Algerian jihadist with extensive ties to northern Mali who has run operations across the Sahel.  

It's Belmokhtar who's thought to have planned the assault and hostage-taking at Algeria's Ain Amenas gas complex, which left dozens of foreign workers dead.

Terror analyst Daveed Gartenstein-Ross warns that attack is part of an emerging strategy that's proving effective.

“Even without carrying out a spectacular attack against the United States, something we obviously have not seen since September the 11th, 2001, it’s possible to do damage to U.S. interests in the region, and that’s precisely what happened in Benghazi this past September,” Gartenstein-Ross said.

Experts say the goal of the al-Qaida affiliates is to put the U.S. on the defensive in as many ways and in as places as possible -- driving up costs -- a sneaky way of hitting at the U.S. economy.

That may mean more cooperation, like what took place in Mali, where the U.S. provided support but the French took the lead.

Serwer cautions that, when the U.S. does respond, it will also have to be very careful.

“What you don’t want to get into in this situation you have in Yemen where it appears that we are perhaps creating as many terrorists as we’re killing with drone strikes,” Serwer said.

Analysts warn too many missteps risk radicalizing communities in the Maghreb and Sahel and even North African immigrants in Europe.

Jeff Seldin

Jeff works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters covering a wide variety of subjects, from the nature of the growing terror threat in Northern Africa to China’s crackdown on Tibet and the struggle over immigration reform in the United States. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @jseldin or on Google Plus.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Secret Service Head: White House Security Lapse 'Unacceptable'

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after a recent intrusion at the White House: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid