The North African Threat to Europe

January 30, 2013 8:55 am 0 comments

French soldiers in Bamako, Mali. Photo: Wiki commons.

Not long after the French offensive against African jihadists in Mali got underway, a leader of one of the offshoots of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) declared that his organization would “strike at the heart of France.” AQIM attacked French embassies and most recently a gas facility in Algeria, where it took hostages. But was it ready to move its war against the West to the territories of the European states as well and thus pose a real threat to their security?

The fact is that for some time European leaders have been looking at the growth of al-Qaida in North Africa with real concern. After Islamist extremists took control of northern Mali last year, converting it into a terrorist sanctuary, EU heads of state met in Oct. 2012, and issued a statement characterizing the crisis in Mali as “an immediate threat” to Europe itself. French President Francois Hollande said he believed that AQIM was planning to use Mali as a launching pad for an attack on French soil. This month German Chancellor Angela Merkel added her voice to this view of the crisis in Mali, saying that “terrorism in Mali, or in the north of Mali, is a threat not just to Africa but also to Europe.”

French intelligence experts have traced the rise of jihadist forces in Mali and the rest of North Africa. Apparently, Pakistani and Afghan preachers began arriving in 2002-3 in Mali and Niger along with international jihadists who fled Afghanistan after the U.S. intervention drove them out. In other words, the rise of jihadist elements in these African countries was not just a local phenomenon, but rather linked to the original al-Qaida network.

By 2007, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb was formed from an extremist offshoot of the Groupe Islamique Armee (GIA) that had fought in the Algerian Civil War in the 1990s. In March 2012, jihadist forces took over the northern two-thirds of Mali, converting it into a new African Afghanistan. Since 2009, the growing jihadi presence in West Africa spilled over into Mali’s neighbor, Niger, which also happens to be the sixth largest producer of uranium ore in the world.

The idea of launching attacks against the West was already proposed by the forerunners of AQIM. On Dec. 24, 1994, four terrorists from the GIA hijacked an Air France airbus that took off from Algiers and was bound for Paris. In what looked like a rehearsal for 9/11 (there was no connection between the two events) their plan was to use the French aircraft as a missile and crash it into the Eiffel Tower with all the passengers on board. French gendarme stormed the aircraft in Marseilles and eliminated the GIA team. In 1995, GIA killed eight people and injured 100 in a bomb attack on the Paris Metro.

The idea that radical Islamic organizations seek to target the West should not come as a surprise. It has been a prevalent theme in their writings, especially in the Muslim Brotherhood from which many of the leaders of al-Qaida emerged. Hassan al-Bana, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood wrote that after the establishment of the Islamic state in Egypt, the struggle against the West must continue: “We will not stop at this point, but will pursue this evil force to its own lands, invade its Western heartland …” In the same way, Muhammad Akef, the former Supreme Guide of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood declared in 2004 his “complete faith that Islam will invade Europe and America.” Western apologists often ignore these hard-line positions, but they undoubtedly influenced the political education of younger generations of jihadists, who later operationalized them.

The U.S. has not seen the new North African threat as intensely as the Europeans. The New York Times ran a story on Jan. 18 entitled “U.S. Sees Hazy Threat from Mali Militants.” The newspaper reported that during Congressional testimony last June a State Department official played down the threat from what was happening in Mali, saying that AQIM “has not threatened to attack the U.S. homeland.” Another view, coming out of the Pentagon, points to the role of AQIM in the attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans were killed, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put forward a more urgent view of recent developments in North Africa during testimony before Congressional committees on Jan. 23 when she said: “… the instability in Mali has created an expanding safe haven for terrorists who look to extend their influence and plot further attacks of the kind we just saw last week in Algeria.”

That a new region-wide threat is emerging was underscored by the report by Algeria’s prime minister, Abdelmalik Sellal, who said that the seizure of hostages at the Algerian gas plant appears to have been conducted by terrorists who crossed into Algeria from Northern Mali. There are also indications now that this operation received logistical support from Islamist militias in eastern Libya. It is only a short leap from the emergence of a new region-wide al-Qaida infrastructure in North Africa, that crosses international borders, to a direct threat to Europe itself. Apparently, France already understands that this is what is at stake, but it is not fully appreciated that widely.

The difficult point that Western analysts just do not understand is the blind hatred of the West as a whole among all the jihadist organizations, associated with al-Qaida. Many times in Europe it is hoped that by taking a more critical position against Israel, European diplomats can lower the flames of radical Islamic rage against them. But these policies simply don’t work because the jihadists’ readiness to attack the West comes from a desire to eradicate Western civilization and not from the pronouncements of Catherine Ashton or any other senior European official either for or against Israel.

This article  was originally published by Israel Hayom.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Music US & Canada Lady Gaga Accepts ADL Award: ‘Your Philosophies Are So in Line With Ours’ (VIDEO)

    Lady Gaga Accepts ADL Award: ‘Your Philosophies Are So in Line With Ours’ (VIDEO)

    Pop superstar Lady Gaga on Thursday accepted an award from Jewish human rights group the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on behalf of her Born This Way Foundation, which strives to combat bullying among young people. “Your philosophies are so in line with ours,” she said of the ADL upon accepting the Making a Difference Award in a videotaped message, which was shown at a ceremony in New York City. “We want to help young people know that their feelings and who they are on [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities At 80, Singer-Songwriter Leonard Cohen’s Jewish Roots ‘Very Much Intact’

    At 80, Singer-Songwriter Leonard Cohen’s Jewish Roots ‘Very Much Intact’

    JNS.org – Eighty years young, Leonard Cohen fits many descriptions—singer, songwriter, poet, novelist, monk. From his Jewish upbringing in Canada to the present day, Cohen has always explored his spiritual side. This month, the singer-songwriter released the CD (May 12) and iTunes (on May 8 of this year) formats of his latest album, Can’t Forget: A Souvenir of the Grand Tour, which features live recordings from his world tours in 2012 and 2013. Last year, Cohen’s Popular Problems was voted by Rolling Stone [...]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports FIFA Head Says Israel Should Not be Booted From World Soccer Association

    FIFA Head Says Israel Should Not be Booted From World Soccer Association

    JNS.org – Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) head Sepp Blatter said during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that contrary to Palestinian complaints, Israel has not violated any FIFA statutes and should not be suspended from international soccer’s governing body. “We should not come to one federation saying we will exclude them,” said Blatter, the Jerusalem Post reported. “If the national association is fulfilling its obligations then there is no need to intervene,” he said. “I’m on a [...]

    Read more →
  • Featured Middle East Sports Jewish Rights Group Slams Palestinian Attempts to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    Jewish Rights Group Slams Palestinian Attempts to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    Jewish human rights group the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) said on Tuesday it was “appalled” by a Palestinian Football Association initiative to suspend Israel from FIFA, calling it another “front waged in the context of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign.” “We are appalled at the temerity of the Palestinan Football Association (PFA) demand that FIFA suspend Israel at your forthcoming Congress in Zurich,” wrote the group’s international relations director, Dr. Shimon Samuels, in a letter to FIFA President Joseph [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada Star of Auschwitz Thriller Says ‘God Was Holding the Hand of Every Jew in the Gas Chamber’ (VIDEO)

    Star of Auschwitz Thriller Says ‘God Was Holding the Hand of Every Jew in the Gas Chamber’ (VIDEO)

    The lead actor in Son of Saul, an Auschwitz thriller featured at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, told the UK’s The Guardian that he believes God was “holding the hand” of each Jew who died in the Nazi gas chambers during the Holocaust. “I do not for one nanosecond like to pretend that God is off the hook. He could and should have stopped it at a much earlier stage,” Géza Röhrig, 48, said. ”But I would not be able to get [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Backstreet Boys Singer Howie D Gushes Over Masada During Israel Trip

    Backstreet Boys Singer Howie D Gushes Over Masada During Israel Trip

    Backstreet Boys singer Howie Dorough took to Instagram on Tuesday to marvel about climbing the famed Masada fortress with his band during their visit to Israel, where they will perform this week for the first time. The group’s second day of sightseeing in the Jewish state included the Masada hike, and taking a mud bath at the Dead Sea. A picture from the band’s official Twitter page shows the five singers covered in mud. While relaxing in the Dead Sea, [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews US & Canada ‘Arms and the Dudes:’ New Book, Film Detail How Ex-Orthodox Yeshiva Guys Became Top Suppliers for Afghan Army

    ‘Arms and the Dudes:’ New Book, Film Detail How Ex-Orthodox Yeshiva Guys Became Top Suppliers for Afghan Army

    A new book and its upcoming film adaptation tell the true story of how three former yeshiva students who habitually smoked marijuana scored a $300 million contract from the U.S. government to supply weapons for the Afghan Army, the New York Daily News reported on Sunday. Arms and the Dudes details how the Miami Beach potheads became “the most unlikely gunrunners in history,” according to the book’s author, investigative reporter Guy Lawson. The tale begins with Efraim Diveroli, nephew of [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Theater Natalie Portman: Israel-Themed ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness’ Not Political

    Natalie Portman: Israel-Themed ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness’ Not Political

    JNS.org – Natalie Portman, who directs and stars in the new Hebrew-language film adaptation of author Amos Oz’s A Tale of Love and Darkness, says that despite Oz’s record as a vocal left-wing critic of Israel, her film is not political. Like the book on which it is based, Portman’s film is about a young boy at the time of the founding of the state of Israel. “I think the movie is very much about this very particular, specific family story. Of [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.