"We say to the apostates and their lords among the crusaders: behold the young Muslim men who are coming to you, behold those who cherish death more than life itself, and cherish martyrdom the same way that you cherish your corrupt lifestyle."
Rest of continent, Europe threatened by Islamists
Publishing Date: 23.04.07 07:41
By F. Michael Maloof
Islamic terrorists increasingly are using the Horn of Africa as a base from which to train and threaten all of Africa and possibly Europe.
The United States considers the countries in the Horn of Africa -- Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan and Tanzania -- as major sources of terrorism. Since the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the United States has expressed alarms about the rise of terrorist activities in the Horn.
U.S. officials have seen a progressive spread of al-Qaida into Somalia and in Sudan where al-Qaida in the 1990s got its start.
In 1993, U.S. peacekeeping forces were attacked by al-Qaida-backed tribal clans, resulting in the death of 18 U.S. Special Forces troops.
In the past two weeks, there has been renewed fighting in Somalia following the December 2006 introduction of Ethiopian troops into the country to oust al-Qaida extremists as part of the Supreme Islamic Courts Council, or SICC. Opposition leaders to the current Somali interim government are being led by former SICC political head Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, former parliamentary speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan and Somalian Deputy Prime Minister and Housing Minister Hussein Mohammed Farah Aidid.
They not only are tied to the SICC but to the prominent Hawiye tribal clan which support the militant Islamic fighters. Meeting in Eritrea, they demanded the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops, whose introduction the United States supported militarily, or face war.
Their resurgence in Somalia in such a short time following initial military victories by the introduction of Ethiopian troops with U.S. military help reflects the ability to regain control over lost territory. In recent weeks, suicide attacks in Algeria and Morocco also have shown al-Qaida's widening capability from impoverished Somalia to more affluent countries in northern Africa. The Algerian Salafist Group for Prayer and Combat, or GSPC, has become al-Qaida's Committee in the Islamic Maghreb. It recently took credit for the attacks in Algeria, including the local office of Interpol.
From Algeria, experts believe that the GSPC also launched Islamist attacks in neighboring Morocco. "We bring good news to the larger Islamic nation and, in particular, to our mujahideen brothers concerning the execution of special type of an operation for the very first time," the GPSC said in a statement following an attack.
"We say to the apostates and their lords among the crusaders: behold the young Muslim men who are coming to you, behold those who cherish death more than life itself, and cherish martyrdom the same way that you cherish your corrupt lifestyle," the statement continued.
"We shall not put away our swords and we shall never live in peace until every last Muslim land is set free from the crusaders, the apostates, and the collaborators."
In Nigeria, al-Qaida elements recently launched attacks while elections were underway. In a trial of a group called the Media Trust Ltd. on charges of terrorism, its director, Mohammed Bello Ilyas Damagun, received $300,000 from al-Qaida accounts in Sudan with the intent that "said money shall be used in the execution of acts of terrorism." Despite the recognition of this looming threat, the United States has begun to cut back its financial and logistical support in the Horn to fight against these terrorist activities.
Such cutbacks also come as the U.S. Congress reconsiders its support to fight the international "war on terror."
"Coupled with the deteriorating situation in Nigeria, with a militant and violent Salafist movement in the north, the continued genocide in Sudan, perpetrated by Islamic radicals and the increasing activity of al-Qaida's Committee in the Islamic Maghreb in northern Africa, the situation across the (African) continent is growing increasingly complex and favorable to the jihadists," said terrorism expert and consultant Douglas Farah. "With Iraq sucking the oxygen out of the possibility of focusing on a longer-range and more varied counter-strategy (toward Islamist terrorism worldwide), we are badly hamstrung," Farah said. "We have little or no resources to fight a broader war that is already knocking on our doorstep."
German terrorism experts now have warned that the GSPC poses an increased terror threat not only to North Africa but Europe as well.
Guido Steinberg and Isabelle Werenfels in a recent report said that the group's increased activities in the Maghreb -- a region that includes Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco -- is drawing on a rising number of recruits from all over North Africa.
They see the GSPC threatening not only regional security but also security in Iraq and eventually in Europe. They said that terrorists from Algeria in growing numbers also are fighting in Iraq. According to US and Iraqi statistics, the percentage of Algerian Islamists in Iraq has dramatically increased since 2005, to roughly 20 percent. "It is expected that North African terrorists won't return to their home countries, where security officials very brutally act against militant Islamists," the experts wrote. "They would probably retreat to where many North Africans live -- in Western Europe. The GSPC has in the past fostered logistical networks in France, Spain, the Benelux countries, and Germany and may -- in the course of the internationalization of its strategy -- also attack targets in Europe."
EUROPOL, the European Union's law enforcement organization that handles criminal intelligence, said that most of the 340 people arrested for terrorism-related activities between October 2005 and December 2006 came from Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, and many of them had ties to the GSPC. Berndt Georg Thamm, also a German terrorism expert, said that the GSPC had indeed expanded its activities to other countries of the Maghreb and are aiming at Europe. He said that European security forces will have to watch activities in the Maghreb more closely "because the area geographically is right in our backyard."
French authorities also are worried about Islamists from the Maghreb because of the country's colonial past in Algeria, and the difficulty in monitoring traffic between the Maghreb countries and France. Besides France, Thamm said that Spain will have to be on greater alert.
Spain now has expressed concern over attacks in the Maghreb of its interests, including Spanish consulates and companies and the prospect of direct attacks in Spain. On March 11, 2004, Spain was rocked by Islamist terrorist bombings in Madrid. This attack followed numerous warnings by al-Qaida's second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri. He has pointed to Spain as a likely target. "Jihad through the way of Allah," Zawahiri has warned, "has as its goal the liberation of Palestine and all the territory that was Muslim once, from al-Andalus to Iraq." The reference to "al-Andalus" is the historical name by Muslims of southern Spain. From an historical perspective, Zawahiri's comments may be drawing a parallel to history, given al-Qaida's efforts in Iraq today. In the first century of Islamic rule in Spain in the 8th century, the culture was largely derived from the then flourishing civilization of the Abbasids in Baghdad. It was through al-Andalus that the Abbasid culture of science, technology and philosophy spread throughout Europe to confront the barbarians that had overrun Europe following the fall of the Roman Empire.
F. Michael Maloof, a regular contributor to G2B, is a former senior security policy analyst in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.