Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

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. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Middle East Larry King Asks Saudi Arabian Fan If Taking Pictures With Jews Is Permitted

    Larry King Asks Saudi Arabian Fan If Taking Pictures With Jews Is Permitted

    Jewish former CNN host Larry King asked a Saudi Arabian fan if taking pictures with Jews is allowed in his country, before agreeing to pose for a photo with the man, The New York Times reported on Wednesday. The world-famous interviewer was leaving the Ritz Carlton hotel in Washington, D.C. with a New York Times reporter when a “dark-skinned man” approached and asked to take a picture with him, according to the publication. Whereupon, King asked the fan where he was from. When the man said Saudi […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports Britain’s Lord Sugar Says Synagogues Will Be Empty With Yom Kippur Matchup of Jewish-Supported Soccer Teams

    Britain’s Lord Sugar Says Synagogues Will Be Empty With Yom Kippur Matchup of Jewish-Supported Soccer Teams

    British-Jewish business tycoon Lord Alan Sugar joked on Wednesday that London synagogues will likely be empty during Yom Kippur with congregants fleeing to watch the match-up of two leading English soccer teams known for having hordes of Jewish fans. “Spurs V Arsenal cup game drawn on most important Jewish festival,” Lord Sugar pointed out on Twitter. “Both teams have loads of Jewish fans. Conclusion Synagogues will be empty.” North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal FC will go head-to-head in the Capital One Cup third-round […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Jewish Men Pass Jimmy Kimmel Social Experiment, Rescuing ‘Spongebob’ in Distress (VIDEO)

    Jewish Men Pass Jimmy Kimmel Social Experiment, Rescuing ‘Spongebob’ in Distress (VIDEO)

    Two Jewish men were the only unwitting participants in a social experiment conducted by Jimmy Kimmel, for his popular TV show. As part of a candid-camera-like sketch featured Monday night on Jimmy Kimmel Live, the host devised different street scenes to observe human behavior — in particular, to see how long it would take people walking down California’s bustling Hollywood Boulevard to notice and interact with others in distress. One scene involved a man in a Spongebob Squarepants costume who had “fallen down” on the sidewalk and needed help […]

    Read more →
  • Education US & Canada International Jewish Organization Blasts Israeli-Born Star Natalie Portman for Comments on Holocaust Education

    International Jewish Organization Blasts Israeli-Born Star Natalie Portman for Comments on Holocaust Education

    A major Jewish organization rebuked actress Natalie Portman on Monday for saying in a recent interview that Jews put too much emphasis on teaching about the Holocaust relative to other genocides. The Israeli-born movie star told the U.K.’s Independent that the Jewish community needs to examine how much focus it puts on Holocaust education over other issues. She said she was shocked when she learned that a genocide was taking place in Rwanda while she was in school learning only about the horrors of the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel Book Draws Parallels Between Holocaust and Palestinian Nakba, Sparks Outrage

    Book Draws Parallels Between Holocaust and Palestinian Nakba, Sparks Outrage

    JNS.org – A new book that draws parallels between the Holocaust and the Palestinian Nakba (the Arabic term for the displacement of Palestinian refugees during Israel’s War of Independence) has sparked outrage ahead of an official book launch, to be hosted by the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute on Sept. 7. The Zionist organization Im Tirtzu wrote a letter to the institute demanding that it cancel an event it planned in honor of the book’s authors, under the title The Holocaust and […]

    Read more →
  • Education US & Canada Natalie Portman Says Holocaust Education Shouldn’t be Used for ‘Fearmongering’

    Natalie Portman Says Holocaust Education Shouldn’t be Used for ‘Fearmongering’

    Famed actress Natalie Portman warned on Friday against the use of Holocaust education to evoke fear and paranoia. In an interview with the U.K. Independent she added that the trauma should make Jews more empathetic to others who have also experienced hatred. “Sometimes it can be subverted to fearmongering and like ‘Another Holocaust is going to happen,’” the Israeli-American star said. “We need to, of course, be aware that hatred exists, antisemitism exists against all sorts of people, not in the same way. I […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Commentary A Righteous Gentile Navigates the Sharkpool of Washington’s Middle East Correspondents (REVIEW)

    A Righteous Gentile Navigates the Sharkpool of Washington’s Middle East Correspondents (REVIEW)

    The Tribalist, by Louis Marano, is ostensibly a work of fiction but at its core a kind of love song by a gentile journalist for the State of Israel, and especially its secular Zionist core. (Because of the relentless attacks by left-wing polemicists on Israel’s allegedly “messianic” fringe, it’s often forgotten that most of Israel’s founders and all its leaders have been secular Zionists.) The author, the product of an Italian-American family in Buffalo, served two tours of duty in […]

    Read more →
  • Food Jewish Identity Rugelach Roundtable: Does Beloved Pastry Need Dairy to Taste Good?

    Rugelach Roundtable: Does Beloved Pastry Need Dairy to Taste Good?

    JNS.org – Rugelach (singular: rugala) are a beloved traditional Jewish pastry, with a quirky history to boot, but they often present a kosher conundrum. Though parve rugelach are often a preferred dessert after a meat meal for those observing kosher laws (which stipulate a waiting period between eating meat and dairy), some of today’s most popular rugelach are known for their dairy fillings. Pastry chef Paula Shoyer—author of the books “The Kosher Baker: Over 160 Dairy-free Recipes from Traditional to Trendy” and […]

    Read more →