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

At International AIDS Conference One Goal, Many Paths

The 12,000 delegates attending 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne have vastly different visions about how to eradicate disease More

Disasters May Doom Malaysia’s Flag Carrier

Even before loss of two jets loaded with passengers on international flights, company had been operating in red for three years, accumulating deficit of $1.3 billion More

Afghan Presidential Vote Audit Continues Despite Glitches

Process has been marred by walkouts by representatives of two competing candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Agei
X
Elizabeth Lee
July 20, 2014 2:36 AM
Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.
Video

Video Diplomatic Crisis Grows Over MH17 Plane Crash

The Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine is drawing reaction from leaders around the world. With suspicions growing that a surface-to-air missile shot down the aircraft, there are increasing tensions in the international community over who is to blame. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Undocumented Immigrants Face Perilous Journey to US, No Guarantees

Every day, hundreds of undocumented immigrants from Central America attempt the arduous journey through Mexico and turn themselves over to U.S. border patrol -- with the hope that they will not be turned away. But the dangers they face along the way are many, and as Ramon Taylor reports from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, their fate rests on more than just the reception they get at the US border.
Video

Video Scientists Create Blackest Material Ever

Of all the black things in the universe only the infamous "black holes" are so black that not even a tiny amount of light can bounce back. But scientists have managed to create material almost as black, and it has enormous potential use. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Fog Collector Transforming Maasai Water Harvesting in Kenya

The Maasai people of Kenya are known for their cattle-herding, nomadic lifestyle. But it's an existence that depends on access to adequate water for their herds and flocks. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA, on a "fog collector."

AppleAndroid