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...

  • Book Reviews Commentary In ‘America in Retreat,’ a Real-Life Risk Board

    In ‘America in Retreat,’ a Real-Life Risk Board

    JNS.org – “Risk: The Game of Strategic Conquest,” the classic Parker Brothers board game, requires imperial ambitions. Players imagine empires and are pitted against each other, vying for world domination. Amid this fictional world war, beginners learn fast that no matter the superiority of their army, every advance is a gamble determined by a roll of the dice. After a defeat, a player must retreat. Weighted reinforcement cards provide the only opportunity to reverse a player’s fortunes and resume the [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Sports Does Working Out With Other Jews Keep You Jewish?

    Does Working Out With Other Jews Keep You Jewish?

    JNS.org – For Daphna Krupp, her daily workout (excluding Shabbat) at the Jewish Community Center (JCC or “J”) of Greater Baltimore has become somewhat of a ritual. She not only attends fitness classes but also engages with the instructors and plugs the J’s social programs on her personal Facebook page. “It’s the gym and the environment,” says Krupp. “It’s a great social network.” Krupp, who lives in Pikesville, Md., is one of an estimated 1 million American Jewish members of more [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Sports Illustrated Profiles Orthodox NCAA Basketball Player Aaron Liberman

    Sports Illustrated Profiles Orthodox NCAA Basketball Player Aaron Liberman

    Sports Illustrated magazine featured an extensive profile on Orthodox-Jewish college basketball player Aaron Liberman on Wednesday.  The article details Liberman’s efforts to balance faith, academics and basketball at Tulane University, a challenge the young athlete calls “a triple major.” Sports Illustrated pointed out that Liberman is the second Orthodox student to play Division I college basketball. The other was Tamir Goodman, the so-called “Jewish Jordan.” As reported in The Algemeiner, Liberman started his NCAA career at Northwestern University. According to [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    As the popularity of cycling continues to increase across the world, Israel is working to develop cycling trails that make the country’s spectacular desert accessible to cyclists. The southern segment of the Israel Bike Trail was inaugurated on Feb. 24 and offers for the first time a unique, uninterrupted 8-day cycling experience after six years of planning and development. The southern section of the Israel Bike Trail stretches over 300 kilometers in length and is divided into eight segments for mountain biking, [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    JNS.org – With the recent Oscars in the rearview mirror, Hollywood’s attention now shifts to the rest of this year’s big-screen lineup. Two of the major action films coming up in 2015—Avengers: Age of Ultron, which hits theaters in May, and the third film in the Fantastic Four series, slated for an August release—have Jewish roots that the average moviegoer might be unaware of. As it turns out, it took a tough Jewish kid from New York City’s Lower East [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – Rabbi Gordon Tucker spent the first 20 years of his career teaching at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) and the next 20 years as the rabbi of Temple Israel Center in White Plains, N.Y. I confess that when I heard about the order of those events, I thought that Tucker’s move from academia to the pulpit was strange. Firstly, I could not imagine anyone filling the place of my friend, Arnold Turetsky, who was such a talented [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    JNS.org – I’m in love, and have been for a long time. It’s a relationship filled with laughter, tears, intrigue, and surprise. It was love at first sight, back when I was a little girl—with an extra-terrestrial that longed to go home. From then on, that love has never wavered, and isn’t reserved for one, but for oh so many—Ferris Bueller, Annie Hall, Tootsie, Harry and Sally, Marty McFly, Atticus Finch, Danny Zuko, Yentl, that little dog Toto, Mrs. Doubtfire, [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    At the turn of the 21st century through today, American involvement in Middle Eastern politics runs through the Central Intelligence Agency. In America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East, historian Hugh Wilford shows this has always been the case. Wilford methodically traces the lives and work of the agency’s three most prominent officers in the Middle East: Kermit “Kim” Roosevelt was the grandson of president Theodore Roosevelt, and the first head of [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.