Analysis: Is Mideast terrorism drifting to Africa?
For over a year now, Israel has been increasingly preoccupied with the terror network building up throughout Africa.
Al-Shabaab fighter at food distribution camp Photo: Feisal Omar / Reuters
JOHANNESBURG – Two weeks ago, Kenyan police arrested two people suspected of
planning a terror attack against Israeli and American targets. Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu’s cabinet declared immediately that the arrest proved Iran’s
involvement once again in international terrorism. At the same time, Kenyan
media reported that Israeli detectives had arrived in Nairobi to conduct
meetings with different security bodies. Israeli officials have refused to
comment so far.
For over a year now, Israel has been increasingly
preoccupied with the terror network building up throughout Africa. Outgoing
Ambassador to Nigeria Moshe Ram has offered Israel’s help on several occasions
in the domain of security and the fight against terror, stating that the two
countries have the same goals in fighting Islamist international terrorism.
Private Israeli companies offer security training courses to different Nigerian
bodies. They are also active in many other African countries.
Kenya are fighting different enemies. Kenya, apart from the ongoing fight
against Somali pirates, is under the threat of international terrorism backed by
Iran. The targets, claim specialists, are mostly American, British and Israeli,
not Kenyan. In Nigeria, meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan is facing violent
internal opposition: Muslim rebels who control large parts of the country’s
north and who wish to spread Shari’a law all over the country. They are
Nigerian, fighting the Christian Nigerian minority in the north and the
government in the south.
But although the scenarios differ, the growing
uneasiness is similar. Gen. Carter Ham, head of the US military’s Africa
command, said recently that three Islamist armed groups in Africa were
collaborating in an increasingly coordinated and maybe even synchronized manner:
Al-Shabab in Somalia, Boko Haram in Nigeria, and Aqim in Algeria and in
neighboring countries in the Sahel region. Ham said evidence indicated that the
three groups were helping each other with finances, ammunition, technology and
Of these three, Washington is probably most worried about Aqim,
the North African branch of al-Qaida, which has declared on numerous occasions
that it will keep trying to hit American, British, Spanish and French targets.
Boko Haram is also known to have ties with al-Qaida, though probably in a less
structured fashion. Al-Shabab is more of a nationalist organization by nature,
born out of a political split some six years ago within the main anti-government
rebel organization. Still, Western intelligence agencies suspect that jihad
warriors from different parts of the world have joined Al-Shabab over the years,
especially with the weakening of al-Qaida in the Far East.
countries in Africa are also subject to Muslim terror groups. Most of the north
of Mali is under the control of Asnar-Dine. Muslim rebels are also active in
Niger and Mauritania.
The end of the Gaddafi regime in Libya left many of
them “unemployed” and in urgent need of a change of country and scenery. The
Israeli press published a travel advisory map Thursday morning from Israel’s
Counter-terrorism Bureau. The map indicates Nigeria, Djibouti, Somalia, the
shoreline of Kenya, Ivory Coast, East Senegal and Mali as nonrecommended
destinations for the Israeli tourist.
The Arab Spring has brought in,
along with democracy, a period of uncertainty as far as security control is
Israel is already feeling the heat on its border with Egypt,
where the Sinai desert has become a no-man’s-land since the fall of president
Hosni Mubarak, though it is controlled to some extent by the Beduin tribes and
Where Africa is concerned, Jerusalem focuses mostly on the
Iranian angle, where Israeli tourists might be targeted.
it’s a double war game: Iran-backed terrorism against American and European
targets on the one hand, al-Qaida and its branches in the Maghreb and central
Africa on the other. The terror attack in Bulgaria, apparently perpetrated by
Iranian agents, proves that Tehran will strike wherever and whenever the
opportunity presents itself.