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Local Al-Qaeda Affiliates In Western Sahara Shift To Global Jihad Agenda

Onlookers walk past a fire at Ngolonina market in the Malian capital of Bamako on January 12.
Onlookers walk past a fire at Ngolonina market in the Malian capital of Bamako on January 12.

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French 'In Direct Combat' In Mali

French troops have reportedly engaged in street battles against Islamist rebels in the town of Diabaly in central Mali.
By Ron Synovitz
Experts say it is too early to judge whether a French-led offensive against Islamic militants in the west African country of Mali will be successful or will result in a long-lasting Afghan-style quagmire.

But what has become clear during the past week is that the nature of Islamic militancy in the western Sahara has changed. Militant groups that once were primarily concerned with domestic revolt in their own country are now joining together in global jihad. Their push for strict Islamic law, known as Shari'a law, now transcends national borders.

That has some French commentators already talking about Mali as a potential quagmire for foreign intervention.

During the past week France has sent hundreds of troops to Mali and launched heavy air strikes to stop an offensive by Islamic militants in the north of the country from advancing into the south. Paris plans to increase its deployments, which were requested by Mali's government, to about 2,000 troops backed by armored vehicles, heavy weapons, and air power.

France also is pressuring the 15 countries in West Africa's regional grouping ECOWAS to start sending soldiers for a UN-backed security force in Mali ahead of the originally scheduled September deployment date. Nigeria this week dispatched the first of an expected 1,200 soldiers to Mali.

In Brussels, EU diplomats say European Union governments on January 17 agreed to go ahead with a plan to send hundreds of troops to train Mali government forces to fight the militants.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Algeria, militant commander Mokhtar Belmokhtar and fighters in his "Signatories For Blood" group internationalized their push for strict Islamic law by taking dozens of foreign workers hostage at a natural-gas plant in eastern Algeria.

Belmokhtar, an Islamist who is known as "The One-Eyed" and "The Uncatchable," has said the hostage-taking raid was retaliation for France's deployment of troops, which he demanded must be withdrawn from Mali, and Algeria's agreement to allow French warplanes to overfly its territory en route to Mali.

The raid underlines the fact that Mali's civil war has spilled across its borders.

Internationalizing Jihad

Until 2012, Algerian Al-Qaeda affiliates in AQIM -- Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb -- were struggling to break from their Algerian roots. Now they are actively engaged in support of Islamic militant factions in Mali, including Ansar Dine and the Movement for Unity (MUJWA) and Jihad in West Africa.

Dominique Thomas, a specialist on Jihadist movements, told France Info radio that the hostage-taking raid in Algeria is part of a pattern by the region's militants to push to internationalize their jihad.

"Today, the jihadists, particularly AQMI, MUJWA, and groups that are linked to them -- with the exception, maybe, of Ansar Dine -- don't only have a local agenda; they have an international agenda," Thomas said. "And the objective is to try to internationalize the crisis, create a kind of international front for jihad in this region. This is done through a brazen operation that inevitably affects neighboring countries."

Michel Douti, a political governance expert at the Open Society Initiative for West Africa, said the membership of militant factions in the region also reflected the push for Islamic law that transcends national borders.

"The difference between AQIM and MUJWA is the difference between Coca-Cola and Pepsi, because it's the same coin, with two sides," Douti said. "Who can find the difference between AQIM and MUJWA when they all agree that it is Islamic law and Shari'a that must be imposed? Is it a question of skin? Because one can see now that the elements of MUJWA are made of up of a majority from West African countries, especially Nigeria, Benin, and Togo."

In Washington, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta suggested on January 16 that the hostage episode in Algeria could be the beginning of a wave of attacks against foreigners in the region.

"With regards to AQIM, with regards to Al-Qaeda in general, I guess -- I say this from my own background in having dealt with Al-Qaeda -- they are a threat. They are a threat to our country, they are a threat to the world," Panetta said. "And wherever they locate and try to establish a base for operations, I think that constitutes a threat, that all of us have to be concerned about."

Mounting Threat?

AQIM evolved out of the Algerian militant organization called Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC).

When it was founded in 1998, the GSPC's political agenda was focused on overthrowing the Algerian government and installing an Islamic regime. It quickly became Algeria's largest and most dangerous terrorist group.

Belmokhtar was a central figure in the GSPC as well as a commander of GSPC militants in southern Algeria.

A 40-year-old former Algerian soldier, Belmokhtar reportedly lost his right eye in 1991 in Afghanistan, where he claims he received jihad training and combat experience.

During the past decade, as the GSPC evolved gradually from its domestic focus into an organization with a global Jihadist ideology, Belmokhtar's strength and clout also grew.

Stephen Ellis, an expert on organized crime and a professor of African studies in the Netherlands, says Belmokhtar was able to recruit more militants and fund his operations with money received from smuggling cigarettes on the black market -- a source of income that earned him the nickname "Marlboro Man."

The GSPC declared France as its "No. 1 enemy" in 2005. A year later, the group pledged its allegiance to Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda.

After the AQIM emerged from the GSPC, Belmokhtar split away to form his Signatories For Blood faction. But he has maintained his ties with Al-Qaeda's central leadership, from whom he now reportedly takes commands.

Belmokhtar reportedly said in a November 2011 interview that his forces were bolstered in 2011 by the arrival officers and troops from Muammar Gaddafi's regime who fled Libya. Those Libyan forces also reportedly brought heavy weapons and vehicles to Belmokhtar's faction.

With additional reporting by Antoine Blua and material from Reuters, AP, ANI, France Info
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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Eugenio from: Vienna
January 19, 2013 12:19
Wow, impressive: after ALL the European (and not only) news channels have for THREE DAYS been talking about the hostage-taking crisis in Algeria - in which up to date at least 12 NATO nationals (one of them from the US and another one from France) have been killed in the course of the "liberation attempt" by the Algerian special forces - the RFE/RL has found the strength necessary in order to report about these events.
The most interesting excerpt of the article is the last paragraph, in which the RFE/RL indirectly admits that this kind of spectacular assaults by al-Qaeda militants have been made possible by the fact that NATO destroyed all the functional govtl structures in Libya two years ago and, therefore, made it possible for the militants in question to get hold of the weapons of the former Liban army.
Thus, NATO has done its best in terms of arming those al-Qaeda militants and, threfore, opened the way for the hostage-crises like the one that is taking place in Algeria today.
One can be certain that Mokhtar Belmokhtar will continue expressing his gratitude to M. Sarkozy, George W Obama and David Cameron for having helped him and his friends to get hold of those weapons - and to obtain a safe haven in "liberated" Lybia, where the group that attacked the Algerian gas-producing complex came from, apparently without having had any serious problems with crossing the border. No wonder: the new "democratic" Libya "liberated" by NATO appears to be very friendly to such guys as Mokhtar Belmokhtar ...
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
January 19, 2013 14:07
According to the latest reports of the Spanish and French media, the Algerian special forces have finished "liberating" the hostages: the remaining 7 (of whom 2 were supposedly US citizens) have been killed.
Source: http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2013/01/18/actualidad/1358489761_078403.html
In Response

by: Jack from: US
January 19, 2013 14:51
good points Eugenio. US government with the brightest of the bright - Hillary Sarah Palin, and its NATO minions have done a lot to bring on themselves this problem and they rightfully deserve what they get. And it will get even worse for them. Al Qaeda was created by Ronald Reagan and American people admire his legacy and they will eat it for a long time, not only in a form of Al Qaeda but also spiriling out of countrol debt (which Reagan started accumulating as no one else before him)

by: Bill Webb from: Phoenix Arizona USA
January 19, 2013 13:04
Where ever the muslim ideology pops up in the world, usually an impoverished and overpopulated area, it is quickly followed by the islamic militants, who by force of arms funded by any kind of criminal activity available, want to create an islamic state ruled by sharia law. regardless of what the local population and government want. The "war on terror" is not just a buzzword used in the news but a sophisticated, internationally supported movement to end this muslim conspiracy. It cannot and will not fail.

by: lansari from: spain
January 19, 2013 13:15
All this is not happening in Western Sahara. It,s all taking place in Mali which has no borders with WS. Western Sahara conflict is being dealt with by UN as the last colony in Africa "a decolonization issue". Saharaui citizens are suffering from Moroccan occupation since 1976 after Spain withdrew selling the territory to neighboring countries, Morocco and Mauritania, without giving indigenous Saharawi their right to self-determination like all African peoples. In WS there is the second largest and most dangerous wall all over the world, dividing entire families. Repression and gross human rights violations are taking place constantly carried out by several occupying Moroccan authorities security forces

by: RG from: USA
January 19, 2013 17:14
The headline is very misleading. The term "Western Sahara" normally denotes a specific territory that is claimed and partially occupied by Morocco but also claimed by the POLISARIO, a pro-independence Sahrawi (Western Saharan) organization. In fact this article does not focus on activities within the internationally-recognized borders of "the Western Sahara," but rather on areas to the east and south, including the "Sahel region." (Even if it is possible that some transplanted Sahrawis are involved in some of the activities described in the article, the headline incorrectly implies much, much more.)

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
January 19, 2013 22:11
And here is another important aspect of the hostage crisis in Algeria: given the fact that the Algerian special forces were so trigger happy and killed some 25-27 NATO nationals while "liberating" them has ALREADY made a number of multinationals active in Algeria to reconsider their strategy and withdraw their personnel from the country.
Should terrorist attacks on the Algerian oil and gas infrustructure continue, this will have long-lasting effects for the European Energy Security. Algeria has up to present been a backbone of the so-called European Second Energy Corridor, one of whose purposes was and remains to "reduce the level of Europe's dependence on the Russian natural gas". Should this Second Energy Corridor fall prey to constant terrorist attacks, it looks like Europe will have nothing else to do but to become yet more dependent of Russia for its natural gas supplies.
An instructive VIDEO related to the topic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAg44sf9fOY

by: RobJ from: Virginia, USA
January 20, 2013 02:32
The article is not bad, but the author needs to make it clear what territory he is actually talking about -- it is not THE Western Sahara (as defined by the UN, many countries, the CIA factbook, etc.). Some readers are wondering if the headline is purposely misleading.

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
January 20, 2013 08:12
As of the early morning on Sunday, Jan. 20th, the French media is informing that at least 23 hostages were killed in the Algerian hostage crisis in question, and judging by what the Japanese prime Minister said, it appears that 10 out of them were Japanese.
Source: http://www.lemonde.fr/afrique/article/2013/01/19/le-conseil-de-securite-de-l-onu-condamne-l-attaque-haineuse-en-algerie_1819421_3212.html

by: Anonymous
January 20, 2013 14:10
I have a question ....
how is that France can do an armed intervention in Mali
without any UN permission ?
In Response

by: Anonymous
January 21, 2013 13:06
Because the government asked them to. they are helping the government fight rebels. did you read the article at all?

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
January 20, 2013 15:24
According to the latest report of the French media, they have "just found 25 (!!!) bodies of dead hostages more" on the territory of the gas complex.
I mean, really, we all have to congratulate the govt of France for their "brilliant" idea of attacking Mali and the govt of Algeria for their "spectacular" handling of the whole "operation". Congratulations, guys, great job, I mean, really...
Source: http://www.lemonde.fr/afrique/article/2013/01/19/le-conseil-de-securite-de-l-onu-condamne-l-attaque-haineuse-en-algerie_1819421_3212.html
In Response

by: Jack from: US
January 21, 2013 15:12
yes Eugenio and everyone can rest assured Hillary Clinton has not lost her sleep over these dead bodies. That is because the hostage-takers are her Wahhabi Sunni friends and allies, financed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The same folks Hillary and US government help and sponsor in Syria, Bosnia, Kosovo
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
January 22, 2013 08:14
Absolutely, Jack, this hostake-taking action probably was the reason for which Western media has for the last week or so stopped talking too much about the "horrible govt of Bashar al-Assad" in Syria and about those those "wonderful freedom fighters" who regularly put car-bombs in front of Syrian university campus, thus showing who they really are.
And in the meantime, German press is informing that the British PM Cameron has again found taste for "fighting terror" and - after having postposed his long-promised speach on how he was going to finally let the British people vote in a referendum on leaving (or not) the European Union - appears to have decided to follow the path of M. Hollande - right into Africa. Der Spiegel has just published an article saying that "David Cameron described the "war on Islamic terror" as a "task of the generation"" and that "the British army could in short join the French army in combating the militants in Norther Africa".
In other words, what we see here is a one-to-one repetition of the Afghan scenario: In Afghanistan those NATO govts spent the entire decade of the 1980s promoting, financing and training such individuals as Osama bin-Laden. Just in order to be bombed by those individuals on Sept. 11th 2001, then get into a war against them, spend zillions of dollars on this war and, without having achieved anything at all, uselessly retreat from the country in 2014 and then watch the Taliban come back to power.
The same thing in N. Africa: First, they bomb Libya, destroying all of its govts structures and THEREWITH allowing al-Qaeda and affiliated groups get hold of the WEAPONS that used to belong to the Libyan army. After having armed those al-Qaeda fighters in this manner, they watch how those take control of vast areas in the North of Mali and then stage a spectacular attack against the gas complex in Algeria. The latter action gives those NATO govts a welcome pretext for organizing an "anti-terror operation" in North Africa - very good timing, given that it gives the NATO govts a chance OF DISTRACTING THE PUBLIC OPINION from the fact that the unemployment in Europe is getting ever higher, the economic crisis is getting ever more acute and that the French, British and other EU/NATO govts are absolutely unable to solve any of those problems.
Source on the British preparation for invading Mali: http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/britische-soldaten-stehen-fuer-mali-einsatz-bereit-a-878912.html
In Response

by: Jack from: US
January 22, 2013 13:50
you are right Eugenio, and NATO minions are speeding into the mess they themselves created. Which is of course a positive development because Muslims freedom fighters and NATO minions will be busy killing each other for years, instead of killing Christians in Kosovo. When Evil destroys the Evil the Good prevails

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
January 21, 2013 12:22
By the way, talking about the global Jihad agenda: French media is informing that a Panamanian oil taker has just been hijacked by "armed men" off the coast of the African state of Côte d'Ivoire - one of those that are currently planning to send their troops to Mali in order to support the on-going French "atin-terror operation" there.
Source: http://www.france24.com/fr/urgent/20130121-petrolier-panameen-mains-dhommes-armes-large-ghana
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
January 22, 2013 10:52
VIDEO - Islamic militants cite 'French Crusade', pledge more terror attacks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ygf57KrQTSQ&feature=youtube_gdata_player

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