Top US General warns of coordination between al-Qaeda-linked African terror
The most senior US military commander for Africa yesterday warned Congress
that terrorist groups in Somalia, Nigeria and North Africa with links to
al-Qaeda are looking at how to better coordinate their training, financing
and terror activities.
By Zoe Flood, Nairobi
7:04PM GMT 04 Mar 2012
Army General Carter Ham told the United States house armed services
committee that leading figures in al-Shabaab in Somalia, Boko Haram in
Nigeria and North Africa's al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) were
discussing ways to synchronise their actions.
If successful in their efforts to link up, the Commander of US Africa
Command (AFRICOM) said that the terrorist networks would pose a "real
challenge" to the United States.
The four-star General, who commanded the US military intervention in Libya,
had earlier expressed concern about the "stated intent" of the groups to
work together, voiced most strongly by Boko Haram and AQIM.
Boko Haram - a militant Islamist group whose campaign of terror in northern
Nigeria has left hundreds dead - has reportedly received weapons and
training from al-Qaeda's North African wing.
And some analysts have pointed to the sophistication of its bombing of the
United Nations headquarters in Nigeria's capital Abuja last year, in which
23 died, as evidence of strengthened ties to other terrorist groups.
"Boko Haram has definitely taken inspiration from groups like al-Shabaab and
AQIM, but current evidence for actual linkages isn't compelling," Alex
Vines, head of the Africa programme at the Chatham House think tank, told
The Daily Telegraph.
"While we see increasing sophistication in Boko Haram's techniques,
including the use of suicide bombings, much of Boko Haram's agenda is still
to do with Nigerian issues and not a broader radical Islamist agenda."
Al-Shabaab demonstrated its chilling capacity to carry out attacks further
afield in July 2010, when twin suicide bombings killed 74 football fans
watching the World Cup Final in Uganda's capital Kampala.
Within Somalia, the group is battling on many fronts, including against
Kenyan and Ethiopian forces, and an African Union offensive in Mogadishu
that has taken back much of the capital.
But an announcement by al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri formally welcoming
al-Shabaab to its ranks has provoked concerns that the group is committed to
exporting its terror tactics to the region and beyond.
Africa is an increasingly important arena for US counterterrorism efforts,
as concern mounts that al-Qaeda affiliates are extending into unstable parts
of Africa. An expeditionary base in the Horn of Africa and extensive
military training and intelligence-gathering operations across the continent
are just some of America's counterterrorism strategies in the region.
"One of the key lenses that the United States looks at Africa through is
counterterrorism," added Vines. "Paradoxically, we've seen a deepening of
the security relationship between the United States and Africa under
President Barack Obama, whereas President George W. Bush is remembered more
for his humanitarian activities on the continent."
------------[ Sent via the dehai-wn mailing list by dehai.org]--------------
Received on Sun Mar 04 2012 - 18:51:19 EST