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30 septembre 2014 2 30 /09 /septembre /2014 18:45
Frenchman's murder puts Algeria back on the shifting map of jihad


30 September 2014 defenceWeb (Reuters)


When a little-known group of Algerian militants beheaded a French tourist last week, they were not only lashing out at the West, but also staking an unmistakable claim in the shifting ground of jihadist power politics.


Herve Gourdel's murder by the Caliphate Soldiers, ostensibly to punish France for Western military strikes on Islamic State forces in Iraq, was testament to the pull now exerted by the al Qaeda-offshoot in the battle for the loyalties of jihadists.


A week before Gourdel was kidnapped and killed, the Soldiers' Algerian commander Abdelmalek Gouri, also known as Khalid Abu Suleiman, had split with al Qaeda's North African wing to support Islamic State, whose battlefield successes and declaration of a "Caliphate" in Iraq and Syria have stolen al Qaeda's thunder.


"It seems the mother organisation Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has taken a wrong turn, we can no longer follow their guidance," the Caliphate Soldiers announced.


By executing a Westerner under the "new shield" of Islamic State, Gouri was challenging al Qaeda's ageing leadership under Ayman al-Zawahri, and specifically the AQIM chief Abdelmalek Droukdel, for recruits and support.


"This was a message to Droukdel: 'Your territory of influence and operations from now on will be ours'," said Algerian security analyst Khalifa Rekibi.


Droukdel's AQIM issued a statement calling for an end to divisions, but his authority had already been undermined by the veteran militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar, whose splinter group "Those who Sign in Blood" last year brazenly attacked Algeria's Amenas gas complex, where 39 foreign contractors were killed.


"Abu Suleiman is a well known AQIM commander. He wanted to follow Belmokhtar's path to set up his own armed group," said another Algerian security analyst, Anis Rahmani. "Sources say he clashed with Droukdel over how to pursue the fight."




Belmokhtar, an Algerian veteran of jihadist battles in Afghanistan who security analysts believe may be sheltering in southern Libya, has yet to declare his hand on the ascendancy of Islamic State.


Gouri is a former head of AQIM's central region who began his militant career in Algeria in the 1990s, in the war that followed the government's cancellation of an election that appeared certain to be won by the Islamist FIS party.


He was a member of the Armed Islamic Group, known by its French initials GIA: the most extreme of the Islamist guerrilla groups that sprang up to fight the army-dominated state.


Noted for attacking civilians whom it considered to be collaborating with the government, the GIA was blamed for massacres such as one in the village of Sidi Youssef, when at least 50 men wielding knives and machetes attacked homes, dragging people into the streets and slashing their throats.


But even with his GIA history, little is known about Gouri, or the size of his following, or the ability of his Caliphate Soldiers to carry out any sustained campaign.


Security experts say the group may number as few as 15 to 20 men from the core of AQIM, who have hardly had time to formulate a strategy and looked to benefit from Islamic State's rise.


Gourdel's abduction just two days after he arrived in Algeria to go trekking in the mountains, and the rapid release of a poor quality video and subsequent execution, suggest that Gouri's men had to react fast after perhaps getting a tipoff.


With Algerian helicopters, troops and gendarmerie flooding in to hunt for Gourdel, in what one local resident said looked like a "military invasion", the Caliphate Soldiers knew they would have little time to act.


"The video's quality and its mawkish symbolism seem to indicate a hasty gesture to jihadi Islam: Gourdel was a 'target of opportunity'," said Geoff Porter, a North Africa security analyst and researcher at the Countering Terrorism Center at the U.S. military academy at West Point.


"It will be important to watch the evolution of the quality of future communiques and the group's use of imagery in order to gauge the group’s development."




For years, men like Gouri have held out in the inaccessible forested mountains east of Algiers, known during GIA's years of blood in the 1990s as the "Triangle of Death", refusing government amnesty offers and living off the kidnapping of businessmen for ransom.


But reviving any significant jihadist campaign in Algeria will be extremely tough for a small splinter group, given the army's deep experience in fighting Islamist militancy.


Against them is also a history of deadly infighting among Algeria's jihadist guerrilla groups that allowed the security forces to infiltrate their ranks and break them up.


That should be little consolation, however, to governments across North Africa and elsewhere being harried by rising Islamic militancy.


For one thing, the Caliphate Soldiers' high-profile act of slaughter may prompt an AQIM attempt to reclaim authority with attacks of its own.


"Competition will increase between both organisations," said Rekibi.


And then, by raising the profile of Islamic State at al Qaeda's expense in North Africa, already a major source of jihadist fighters travelling to Syria and Iraq, the Caliphate Soldiers' act could boost recruitment still further.


Neighbouring Tunisia is already fighting against Ansar al-Sharia and other Islamist militants holed up in the Chaambi mountains bordering Algeria. Both Tunisia and Algeria have seen several militant attacks on security forces in recent months.


"We knew that after the American intervention, we may face more kidnappings and maybe attempts on embassies," said one Tunisian security official. "Terrorists will try and give new life to their followers and try spectacular attacks."

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20 décembre 2013 5 20 /12 /décembre /2013 13:45
ISS: Terrorism and the threat radical Islam poses to Cameroon


19 December 2013 by Martin Ewi, Senior Researcher, Transnational Threats and International Crime Division, ISS Pretoria


The kidnapping of a French priest, Reverend Georges Vandenbeusch, in northern Cameroon on 14 November 2013, barely seven months after the negotiated release of a French family who had been kidnapped by Boko Haram and Ansaru in the same region, demonstrates Cameroon’s vulnerability to the threat of global jihad.


Recent actions by France seem to confirm this vulnerability. Fearing the Islamists’ growing influence, France has for the first time since Cameroon’s independence, issued a red alert travel warning, declaring certain parts of the country no-go zones (see map).


This reaction has led many analysts to ask whether Cameroon, once lauded as an oasis of peace and stability in a turbulent region, is in danger of becoming another African country where terrorism has degenerated into a chronic social problem. If France’s paranoia is anything to go by, Islamists’ recent activities in Cameroon should be taken as a serious symptom of the growing insecurity in the country.


Despite its relatively stable history since gaining independence in 1960, Cameroon has not been immune from the threat of terrorism. According to the Global Terrorism Database (GTD) maintained by the University of Maryland, roughly 28 major terrorist incidents occurred in Cameroon between 1970 and 2011. The deadliest attack to date took place on 12 November 2007, when gunmen in speedboats attacked a Cameroonian military post on the Bakassi Peninsula, killing 21 soldiers.


Between 2011 and November 2013, 13 major terrorist attacks were reported in Cameroon. The most recent attack occurred on 16 November 2013, when unidentified gunmen from the Central African Republic (CAR) attacked a Cameroonian border post at Gbiti. Seven people died in the attack. Of the 13 attacks that have been recorded since 2011, at least eight have been attributed to Boko Haram and Ansaru, making them the principal terrorist threat to Cameroon.


Until the recent escalation in kidnappings in the country’s far north, the places most vulnerable to terrorism have been the area surrounding the Bakassi Peninsula and the high seas linking Cameroon and the piracy-ridden Niger Delta region of Nigeria. Here Cameroon has suffered at least ten major piracy incidents in the past two years. With the civil war in CAR, east Cameroon has also become vulnerable, broadening the threat of terrorism to include all Cameroon’s borders with Nigeria, Chad and CAR.


The drivers of terrorism in Cameroon may be found in the country’s complex historical, geostrategic and socio-economic dynamics. Often described as Africa in miniature, Cameroon is not only diverse in landscape but also in people. The estimated 21 million Cameroonians comprise more than 250 ethnic groups, many of which trace their roots to other African countries. This diversity also exists in relation to religion, with the population consisting of roughly 40% Christians, 30% Muslims and 30% espousing traditional beliefs. This diversity has never been a source of conflict or instability in Cameroon, but it does provide a setting conducive to the exploitation of certain groups and religions. Kinship is one of the biggest factors in the spread of modern terrorism, as ethnic and religious ties provide a base for both support and protection.


The roots of radical Islam in Cameroon may be traced to the period of Islamic revivalism in northern Nigeria, which took concrete institutional form with the establishment of the Sokoto Caliphate (1804–1903). Until the arrival of the German colonial powers, most of northern Cameroon formed part of Nigeria’s Adamawa Emirate, populated by the same people – mainly the Hausas and Fulanis – and administered by the British from Lagos. It was only after the 1893 agreement between Great Britain and Germany that Adamawa was split between Nigeria and Cameroon with a formula that did not respect ethnic boundaries. As a result, the religious activism that animated the Sokoto Caliphate and particularly the Adamawa Emirate continued in Cameroon, and to some extent took a more radical turn as Muslims in those territories vehemently opposed the split and the subsequent secular regimes in Cameroon.


This historical and ethnic affiliation is vital to understanding the cross-fertilisation of jihadism in Cameroon and Nigeria. For example, the Cameroonian Muhammad Marwa, who moved to Nigeria from northern Cameroon, is believed to be the founder of the Maitatsine Doctrine, an extremely radical form of Islam that spread throughout northern Nigeria and culminated in the Kano uprising of December 1980, in which over 4 000 people died. Boko Haram, which today has many Cameroonian members, espouses the Maitatsine Doctrine, which rejects Western forms of education and other aspects of Western life it considers to be corrupting. In this context it is important to ask why radical Islam has been so violent in Nigeria and not in Cameroon, especially given their geographical proximity, and historical and ethnic affinities.


Indeed, the split of Adamawa and the end of the Sokoto Caliphate were met with same violent reactions in Nigeria and Cameroon. The colonial approach to Islam and the role that the latter played in the nation-building projects of the two nations, are however, different. From the beginning of the German colonial administration, Islamic militancy was identified as the greatest threat to the construction and governance of the Cameroonian nation. This view was upheld by the subsequent British and French administrations, as well as the country’s post-independence regimes.


As a result, policies were developed to pacify, coerce and integrate Muslims into the nation-building project. This began with the dismantling of the religious edifices that underpinned the Sokoto Caliphate. For example, the power of Islamic theocracies, clerics and local chiefs or laamidos was reduced and made subordinate to secular institutions. Other policies have included direct negotiation and preferential treatment, as well as the monitoring and strict regulation of Islamic affairs, including state oversight of mosques.


The 1984 attempted coup by Ahidjo’s loyalists brought to the fore the continued threat from the north and the gaps in the nation-building project. The state responded by developing programmes to encourage and reward cooperative Muslim elites, and created institutions to support and advance Islamic culture. Central to these efforts has been the creation of a unitary republican state that recognises plurality but does not define Cameroon on the basis of any ethnic or religious creed.


The current radical Islamist threat comes from sources external to Cameroon – primarily from neighbouring countries. The pressure Boko Haram and Ansaru face from Nigerian military operations has forced the groups to look for safe havens outside the country. Cameroon is believed to be one of the countries in which Boko Haram has regrouped following the massive military crackdown in Nigeria in 2009. The group is believed to have established a comfortable berth in northern Cameroon, using porous borders, false identity cards and kinship ties to infiltrate the country. Although it traditionally used its Cameroonian bases only for resources, recruitment and planning attacks, it recently started to carry out attacks in the country, including assassinations, murders, armed robberies and kidnappings.


Cameroon, which has no experience in combating terrorism, is employing conventional military tactics similar to those used by Nigeria. Last year, Cameroon reportedly killed about 180 Boko Haram fighters in such operations. Several of the sect’s fighters have been arrested and imprisoned. However, these measures are inadequate to deal effectively with the threat of terrorism in the long term. The overwhelming emphasis on military responses may risk Cameroon falling into the same predicament as Nigeria, where military responses have helped foster Boko Haram’s resistance.


If Cameroon is to be successful in repelling the threat, it will have to take a robust criminal justice approach that combines sound intelligence with effective investigation and prosecution of terrorist suspects. Cameroon must prioritise the adoption of comprehensive national counter-terrorism legislation. It should also provides guidelines for both military responses and long-term measures, with a view to addressing the legal, social, political, economic, religious and cultural conditions that give rise to terrorism. Cameroon should also tighten border security, strengthen the capacity of its judiciary, eliminate corruption among the security forces, and strengthen cooperation at regional and international levels.

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