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Global Jihad Sustained Through Africa

Global Jihad Sustained Through Africa

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Published by: Silendo on Apr 04, 2012
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UK Terrorism Analysis
Global Jihad SustainedThrough Africa
Valenna Soria
Context Key Findings
Recent aacks in Nigeria, coupled with ongoing insurgency in Somalia andcurrent turmoil in Mali, underline that the jihadist challenge may be migrang toSomalia, Kenya, north Nigeria and the borderlands of some of the vast territoriesof West Africa.
As the central leadership of Al-Qa’ida is weakened andchallenged, the terrorist movement is looking to partnershipsin Saharan and Sub-Saharan Africa to re-group and re-energiseitself 
Despite greater co-operaon, there seems to be an unresolvedtension between transnaonal aims of Al-Qa’ida-core and thelocal grievances of African partners
Following the alliance with Al-Qa’ida-core, regionalaliates such as Al-Qa’ida in the Maghreb and Al-Shabaabhave undergone similar paerns of strategic, taccal andpropagandisc evoluon
Nigeria’s Boko Haram is sll focused on a local campaign, butrecent operaonal renement and ability to stage deadly‘spectaculars’ suggests disturbing connecons with otherregional terror groups
Links between Al-Qa’ida-core and some jihadist groups inAfrica have been established over the last decade which vary instrategic and operaonal signicance
A range of new challenges are possible as jihadism evolvesand disperses into territories of ungoverned space acrosslarge stretches of the African connent. Among these are thepotenal for radicalisaon and mobilisaon of a new subset of Brish youth in the UK
Africa represents a ferle ground for a diminished ‘Al-Qa’ida-core’ to re-group,re-energise and re-launch its mission of global jihad.
This is a series of onlinebriengs aimed atoering assessmentsof the threat we faceand the policy oponsbefore us. 2012 is likelyto set the scene forsecurity policy as theterrorism threat evolvesand the internaonalenvironment changes
Previous UKTA papers
Counter-Terrorism in anOlympic Year
February 2012www.rusi.org/uktaSee also:
Analysis on Africa
No. 2, April 2012
UK Terrorism Analysis Number 2
The focus of an-jihadist counter-terrorism is shiing to Africa.Western intelligence and security services understand what ishappening in Pakistan, in the Maghreb and in Yemen, even if theycannot do very much about it. But counter-terrorism ocialsprivately acknowledge that they are unsighted and are workinghard to try to understand how far the jihadist challenge may bemigrang to Somalia, Kenya, north Nigeria and the borderlands of some of the vast territories of West Africa.The jihadist challenge constantly evolves. As yet, it is unclearwhether the Al-Qa’ida-core is making a conscious eort to re-groupand reconstute itself in the Horn and across sub-Saharan Africa; orwhether events represent displacement as Islamist groups ghngfor a variety of dierent causes espouse a loose version of theglobal caliphate ideology and co-operate on an
ad hoc
basis. Eitherway, Africa represents a potenal new front for counter-terrorismin Britain and the linkages already evident across the connentsuggest the development of some disturbing new trends.On 23 February the Internaonal Conference on Somalia, hostedby the UK Government in London, aimed to nd viable soluonsthat would address the many challenges sll hindering Somalia’sroad to recovery. Parcularly high on the agenda was the issueof security and the need to decisively deal with the threat posedby the Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab, depicted not just as anobstacle to Somali stability but as a global security problem.
On 8 March, a failed joint rescue operaon conducted by Nigerianforces and UK Special Boat Service (SBS) personnel resulted inthe death of a Brish and an Italian naonal; the two men hadallegedly been held hostage since May 2011 by a local group calledBoko Haram – or possibly a splinter cell within it. The polical anddiplomac implicaons of that incident also contributed to raisesignicant media interest around the Nigerian organisaon, itsobjecves and the extent of the threat this might represent forWestern security.Both these groups have fundamentally been characterised as Al-Qa’ida aliates, in light of broad ideological, propagandisc andtaccal consideraons. On the one hand, the merger
betweenAl-Qa’ida-core and Al-Shabaab – ocially endorsed by Al-Qa’idaleader Ayman Al-Zawahiri in February 2012 – has been viewed asthe nal stage of a progressive alignment between the two groupsthat has been taking place over the last four years. On the other, thekidnapping of European cizens, coupled with recent spectacularterrorist aacks in Nigeria, was interpreted as a clear sign of Boko
Haram’s propensity to adopt classic Al-Qa’ida-style methods andtaccs as well as to buy into the laer’s narrave and cause. Allthis has come at a me when European and US counter-terrorismocials have also been voicing concerns in relaon to Al Qa’ida inthe Islamic Maghreb. In parcular, alarm has been raised about thegroup’s future trajectory aer eorts to exploit local insecurity andweak/absent governance in order to expand its zone of inuencein the region.
If correct, this assessment would raise the worrying prospectof an arc of regional instability encompassing the whole Sahara-Sahel strip and extending through to East Africa, which the nowweakened Al-Qa’ida-core could well exploit to re-group, re-organiseand re-invigorate its terrorist campaign against the West. As thisanalysis suggests, the group appears to be adopng a strategyof ‘going nave’, which implies seizing upon and exploing localgrievances with the ulmate aim of securing a stable foothold involale countries.Arguably, its belated aempts to do so in Libya and Syria have le itunable to play any signicant role in the popular protests aecngthose countries. Yet, learning from its mistakes, Al-Qa’ida may nowsee the opportunity to do so in some of the most unstable Africancountries, by ‘playing local’ through its proxies. It is a strategythat the group is already tesng in Yemen, where ‘Al-Qai’da in theArabian Peninsula’ has recently undergone a ‘re-brand’ operaonallegedly aimed to win over local tribes in the south of the country.
Instead of violently coercing support from the local populaon, thegroup is trying to do so by providing vital public services and byappealing to the religious sense of those who would embrace amore hard-line applicaon of Sharia law in the country. Far frommerely being a goal in itself, Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsulaviews the establishment of a solid stronghold in Yemen as necessaryto resume its broader terror campaign against the West.There is no doubng Al-Qa’ida core’s ability to establish operaonalconnecons with the aim of transferring taccal skills to localgroups, while ‘buying’ them into the broader internaonal jihadicause. Yet, turning such connecons of convenience into long-termstrategic alliances depends on variables upon which Al-Qa’ida-coredoes not necessarily have direct control. It is indeed the strategiccalculus of such groups, their internal cohesiveness as well as theconsistency of their leadership, which will determine the viabilityof such strategic partnership. These groups are oen caught in adilemma over whether to remain a locally-focused insurgencyforce or to become a truly internaonal terrorist organisaon witha global ethos.

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