Recently in Africa Category

While top Obama officials are erasing from their vocabularies such terms as Islamic terrorism, jihad, jihadism, radical Islam, war on terror and Islamic war of world conquest, the Islamic war of world conquest goes on.

It's going on in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Russia, the United Kingdom, Somalia, Nigeria, Somalia, Kenya, the United States, Canada, Australia and India, to name just a few places. It's also fanning out from the Islamic terrorist strongholds in Algeria down into the almost ungovernable states of Niger, Mali and Mauritania.

What's unusual about this report in the Wall Street Journal is that, unlike reports carried in the New York Times, other mainstream media and Associated Press and Reuters newswires the reporter actually uses correct descriptives in telling what's happening.

The Koran commands all Muslims to engage in worldwide jihad until Islam is universal and all infidels are killed or enslaved. Almost all Muslims learn this from birth and many decide the way to glory and Paradise is to take up arms, kidnap, rape, kill and seize the property of others (booty, as Mohammad called it). You can get rich and have fun in the process once you get used to the blood.

Islamic Rebels Gain Strength in the Sahara

Moving South From Algeria, al Qaeda-Affiliated Insurgents Find Support Among Locals in Mauritania, Mali and Niger


NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania -- Al Qaeda-affiliated rebels are spreading far beyond their original battleground in Algeria and increasingly threatening Africa's Sahara belt, scaring away investors and tourists as they undercut the region's fragile economies.


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Dozens of security personnel, as well as an American aid worker and a British tourist, were killed by militants in several attacks in the region this summer alone. The attacks -- which prompted this year's lucrative Paris-Dakar car race to relocate to South America -- have become more frequent and brazen. Recent hits occurred not just in the remote desert but also in Mali's tourist magnet Timbuktu and in the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott, where a suicide bomber attacked the French Embassy last weekend.

Though still dominated by the veterans of Algeria's civil war, this Saharan insurgency has grown deep local roots. Armed bands roaming the desert include hundreds of recruits from Mauritania, Mali and Niger -- vast and impoverished countries that straddle the Arab world and black West Africa, and that relied on the now-collapsed tourism industry as the key source of foreign exchange.

"What had started out as an Algerian problem is now engulfing Mali and Mauritania. They are the weak link," says Zakaria Ould Ahmed Salem, a specialist on political Islam at the University of Nouakchott.

An Islamist insurgency that cost 200,000 lives erupted in Algeria 18 years ago, after that country's secular regime annulled the second round of elections that the Islamists were poised to win. But it is only in the past few years, as Algerian security forces contained the violence at home, that the rebels -- who seek to create an Islamic state encompassing North Africa -- began mounting operations in neighboring Saharan countries that had been unscathed by international terrorism.

Underlining its wider ambitions, the main Algerian insurgent movement, the Salafist Group for Call and Combat, re-branded itself in 2007 as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM. Actual operational links between AQIM militants in the Sahara and traditional al Qaeda leadership in Pakistan or Afghanistan are tenuous, if they exist at all, Western officials say.

But the group's new name has made it easier to find money and recruits for the cause outside Algeria. "Someone like Bin Laden is considered a hero here," explains Mohamed Fall Ould Oumere, publisher of La Tribune newsweekly in Nouakchott.

Mauritania, where most people speak Arabic and watch satellite TV chains like Al-Jazeera, is a particularly fertile ground for AQIM's growth, and accounts for a growing share of the movement's cadres, Western diplomats say. In Mali, Niger and Chad, the bulk of AQIM recruits also come from Arab-speaking communities, which in these countries are outnumbered by black African majorities.

AQIM is trying to spread south, "aiming to attract the young Muslims of the region -- white ones and black ones," says Isselmou Ould Moustafa, a specialist on AQIM who interviewed many of the group's members for his Mauritanian publication, Tahalil Hebdo.

Security officials in Nigeria recently claimed that AQIM trained in Algeria some members of Boko Haram, the Islamist sect whose armed uprising cost several hundred lives in northern Nigeria last month. According to some experts on AQIM, there is also evidence of contacts between the Saharan insurgents and the Shabaab, the radical Islamist militia controlling a chunk of Somalia. "It's an arc of fire," says Mr. Oumere.

All the governments in the region say they are fighting back. But the area's political instability and frequent bickering between neighboring countries have long made it easy for Islamist rebels to roam the Sahara, obtaining sanctuary and help from local tribes. Mali and Mauritania both have strained relations with Algeria. Planned regional summits to tackle the cross-border terrorism problem have been repeatedly postponed.

A military coup in Mauritania last year complicated the situation: The U.S. reacted to the overthrowing of Mauritania's democratically elected president by reducing military cooperation with the country and pulling out a reconnaissance plane that flew regular sorties over the Sahara to search for insurgents. Cooperation is likely to be restored now that Mauritania has held a democratic election last month.

Government officials here say that, without outside help, Saharan countries have little chance of defeating AQIM. "This is a zone that can't be controlled. We don't know who's out there in the vast desert and what are they doing," says Mohamed Ould Rzeizim, who served until this week as Mauritania's minister of interior.

To finance its campaign, AQIM is smuggling Europe-bound cigarettes, drugs and illegal immigrants through the desert, Mauritanian and Western officials say. Depots of untaxed cigarettes, often brought in by ship from South America, dot the desert along Mauritania's porous northern borders.

An equally important source of revenue for AQIM is ransom money -- estimated at tens of millions of dollars -- paid by European governments for the freedom of European tourists kidnapped in separate attacks in Algeria, Tunisia, Mali and Niger. The hostages were usually transported across the Sahara to AQIM's bases in lawless northern Mali, where local officials helped negotiate the ransom collection and the tourists' release.

Mali's role as a sanctuary for AQIM has long infuriated Algeria and the U.S. The country appears to be taking a harder line after the Islamist rebels -- who refrained from killing their hostages in the past -- announced in June that they executed their British captive, Edwin Dyer.

A few days after the killing of Mr. Dyer, suspected militants also gunned down in Timbuktu the regional chief of Malian intelligence, Lt. Col. Lamina Ould Bou. The colonel, an ethnic Arab and former Islamist rebel, had played a crucial role in Mali's efforts against AQIM. According to Malian government accounts and al Qaeda Internet postings, armed clashes in the region in following weeks killed dozens of Malian troops and Islamist guerrillas.

"We are now engaged in a total struggle against al Qaeda," Mali's President Amadou Toumani Touré declared last month.

The Saharan rebels have so far targeted only foreigners and security forces, sparing civilian targets like restaurants and hotels. In Algeria, Pakistan and Iraq, by contrast, al Qaeda-affiliated militants showed no concern about killing large numbers of Muslim civilians.

"These youngsters are not yet ready to carry out blind attacks and to explode car bombs, Algerian-style. They have not yet completely broken with the Mauritanian society," says Mr. Moustafa, the AQIM expert. But, he cautions, bloodier attacks are likely to happen soon: "They have bad teachers. Their future targets will be Mauritanian."

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