Al-Qaeda affiliates in West Africa and why Boko Haram was not trained in Somalia
Islamic terrorist group, Ansar Dine has claimed responsibility for the suicide and rocket attack on a United Nations base in Kidal, Mali last week Friday. In its statement concerning the attack which claimed six lives, the terror group named the suicide bomber who carried out the attack, a Mauritanian, Muhammad Abdullah bin Hudhayfa. The group also suggested the attack was carried out in retaliation to the German president’s visit to Mali earlier that day. The president of Germany promised to contribute soldiers to the fight against Islamic terrorists in Mali. However, the six UN peace-keepers who died in the U.N base were all from the neighbouring country, Guinea.
Ansar Dine and its counterpart in north eastern Mali, al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), both started a spate of guerrilla-like attacks since French troops drove them out of towns in northern Mali a few years ago. Ansar Dine and AQIM both formed a coalition and have now carried out a total of three major terror attacks in Mali and in neighbouring Burkina faso since November last year. Their modus operandi in those attacks, it seems, is to attack establishments that host foreign expatriates and dignitaries. Both groups are affiliated with al-Qaeda, suggesting that the terror organisation is starting to gain a significant foothold in West Africa as well. Proven by their first major terrorist attack on the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako last year, the al-Qaeda affiliated groups have been showing their readiness to claim responsibility after an attack. Al-Shabaab, the terrorist scourge in Africa’s north eastern region is also affiliated with al-Qaeda, although it has a faction that claims loyalty to the Islamic State of Iran and Syria (ISIS).
Colonel Bob Wilson, of the U.S Special Forces, last week in an interview with Reuters in Senegal, said the recent attacks by al-Qaeda outfits in West Africa would help them achieve three things. “One; show that it’s still relevant. Two; help it to recruit personnel and commit resources and three; create the impetus to do more attacks like that,” he said. These reasons are plausible since the groups have been quick to claim responsibility after each attack, in an apparent bid to make themselves known. Also, since the attack in Bamako last year, they have seemingly generated “impetus”, moving south and into Burkina Faso territory. These attacks could also see them having more West Africans join their ranks.
Meanwhile, Somalia’s president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, over the weekend, claimed West Africa’s other terror group Boko Haram has been training its fighters in Somalia. Boko Haram pledged allegiance to ISIS last year and re-named itself the Islamic state of West African Province (ISWAP) and it is highly unlikely that Boko Haram fighters were trained by al-Shabaab in Somalia. ISIS and al-Qaeda have a well-known rivalry with each other and there have been no links between the two terror groups in modern history. However, there could be a trace possibility that Boko Haram was trained by the faction of Al Shabaab fighters which split away last year and pledged their allegiance to ISIS. It is important to note that this faction has, however, been hunted down by al-shabaab’s secret police since last year. This seemingly irrelevant piece of information by Somalia’s president highlights the inadequacy of its intelligence officers.
Instead, the world needs to look west of Somalia to see who could be training members of the Boko Haram group. The biggest possibility concerning who trains Boko Haram would be Libya’s Islamic State affiliate. Since the death of former Libyan leader, Mohammed Gaddafi, Libya has been a hotbed of terrorism with the Islamic state having an affiliate group in the country. Along with the training Boko Haram could be getting from the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) another name for ISIS in Libya, Libyan terrorists have before been reported to sponsor Boko Haram. They could still be doing that, especially now that the Islamic State has a relatively strong foothold in Libya. From this information, it is likely that the stage for the next fight against terrorism will be Libya.
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