AROUND AFRICA: Algeria, Mali, Rise in Islamist Terror Groups, Eritrea

January 22, 2013 at 1:31 am Leave a comment

Algerian Hostage Siege

Algeria(CIA World Factbook)

(CIA World Factbook)

We’ve held off posting on the seizure of hostages at a natural gas plant in eastern Algeria until the situation became a little less confused. But as far as 4GWAR is concerned, the situation is still quite confusing. The Algerian prime minister said today (Jan. 21) that 37 foreign hostages were killed in the four-day terrorist incident.

Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal also said a “Canadian” citizen coordinated the siege`and that seven of the foreigners killed — during the initial seizure of the desert plant on Jan. 16 or  in the attack by Algerian security forces that retook the plant on Jan. 19 — have yet to be identified. Five other foreigners are still missing. Seven Japanese, six Filipinos, three Americans and three Britains have been identified by their respective governments as among the confirmed dead. Others, from Britain, Norway and elsewhere are listed as unaccounted for, according to Reuters.

The Algerians say about 700 Algerian workers and 100 other foreigners survived the ordeal at the In Amenas plant near the border with Libya.

Reuters also reported that an Algerian security source told the  news agency that documents found on the bodies of two militants had identified them as Canadians. At a news conference in Algiers the Algerian prime minister said a Canadian was among the militants, adding that: “He was coordinating the attack.”

A leader of the terrorist group, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), claimed responsibility for the attack on the gas plant in retaliation for French military intervention in Mali which Islamist militants are threatening to overrun. The AQIM says it was also punishing Alegerian officials for granting French military aircraft flyover permission on their way to Mali (See story below and note the border Mali shares with Algeria in the map above).

In a separate story from London, Reuters reported that Britain said it would increase counter-terrorism and intelligence aid to Algeria and consider giving more help to France in the fight against Islamists in Mali. But Prime Minister David Cameron ruled out any chance of direct British military intervention in Africa.

More on Mali

Mali and its neighbors(CIA World Factbook)

Mali and its neighbors
(CIA World Factbook)

French and Malian troops have retaken two towns from Islamic militants several news organizations are reporting. The joint force took control of Diabaly and Douentza today (Jan. 21), although BBC reports the towns had been abandoned by militant Islamist fighters fled both towns last week after a French bombing campaign. Diabaly is about 250 miles northeast of Mali’s capital of Bamako. Douentza is about another 250 miles northeast of the capital. Diabaly was the southern-most point held by the militants, Bloomberg reported. Mali is one of Africa’s leading gold-producing countries — even though its people are desperately poor, according to Bloomberg.

The French began airstrikes using helicopters and fighter jets on Jan. 11 to halt the militants’ advance on the capital. They were concerned about Mali becoming a launching pad for terror attacks against Europe. About 2,000 French troops are in Mali already with another 500 expected, although the France, the former colonial ruler of Mali, insists it don’t plan to stay for a long time in an Afghanistan-like mission in Mali.

First Nigerian troops arrive in Mali(French Ministry of defense photo)

First Nigerian troops arrive in Mali
(French Ministry of defense photo)

Meanwhile, an international force from several West African nations is beginning to form. Already about 250 soldiers from Nigeria, Togo and  Senegal are in Mali. Burkina Faso, Niger, Benin, Ghana and Guinea have all pledged to send troops. Chad has pledged to send 2,000 troops and Nigeria will send 1,200 according to the BBC. Funding the coalition force as well as coordinating action among troops from many lands speaking many languages is still a concern.

“The crisis in Mali, if not brought under control, may spill over into Nigeria and other West African countries with negative consequences on our collective security, political stability and development efforts,” Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan wrote earlier this month in a letter to the country’s Senate requesting approval of the troop deployment in Mali, according to Bloomberg. Nigeria is dealing with terror attacks by its own Islamist militant group, Boko Haram.

French Defense Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian said the objective in Mali was to “totally reconquer” the area seized by nomadic Tuareg nationalists and militant Islamist fundamentalist groups like Ansar Dine, The Guardian newspaper reported.

The African Threat

Do the Algerian hostage raid and French intervention in Mali — coming on the heels of Islamist militant attacks in Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Somalia  signal a widening of the so-called War on Terror or an expansion of jihad from Southwest Asia and the Middle East to Africa?

A number of analysts have weighed in on that question. Here is a sampling:

BBC: How was France dragged into the Malian conflict?

The Guardian: The danger of mission creep on al Qaida’s new frontier

The New York Times: North Africa is a New Test

ABC: Panetta says U.S. Assistance to French in Mali Could Serve as a Model

TIME: As Algeria Body Count Grows, Officials Analyze Terrorist Threat — and Whether the Attack Had Inside Help

Coup Stuck

Eritrea and its neighbors(CIA Word Factbook)

Eritrea and its neighbors
(CIA Word Factbook)

An attempted military coup in Eritrea, a country sometimes called the North Korea of Africa, has apparently failed.

Eritrea, which sits just above the Horn of Africa on the Red Sea, has one of the most secretive and repressive regimes in Africa, according to the New York Times. The country won its independence from Ethiopia in 1991after a 30-year war of rebellion.

Eritrea has waged war at one time or another with nearly all of its neighbors. The United Nations has imposed sanctions on the country because of suspected support for Somali militants.

On Monday (Jan. 21) mutinous troops stormed the Ministry of Information and siezed the state-run television service (often a first step in seizing power in coups and revolutions). But apparently nobody took to the streets and soldiers loyal to the government of  President Isaias Afwerki put down the would-be revolution. For details, click here and here.

Entry filed under: Africa, Counter Terrorism, National Security and Defense, Special Operations. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

FRIDAY FOTO (January 18, 2013) FRIDAY FOTO (January 25, 2013)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed


January 2013


%d bloggers like this: