AQIM Steps Up Attacks; Islamists Looking to Africa?

The New York Times reports that al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb “has carried out a string of killings, bombings and other lethal attacks against Westerners and African security forces in recent weeks that have raised fears that the terrorist group may be taking a deadlier turn.”

For some great background on AQIM, see Joseph Kirschke’s October 2008 feature article for WPR, “AQIM: The North African Franchise.” To read it in full online, or as part of the January-February 2009 issue of our digital journal (which can also be downloaded as a .pdf file) you can sign up for a free four-month trial of our subscription service. Alternatively, you can buy the .pdf of the article directly from the Scribd store (we’ll soon be posting more documents there for purchase).

The Times report is just the latest in a string of reports that would seem to me to indicate that the worldwide radical Islamist movement is newly focused on Africa. For example, just yesterday, the Jamestown Foundation noted in its Terrorism Monitor that Islamists as far away as Afghanistan are looking to Africa as the next big battleground in the war against the “neo-colonial ambitions of the United States,” as Jamestown characterizes a recent Taliban statement. Apparently, they view U.S. efforts against Somali piracy as the first step in a master plan of occupation.

Attempting to shift the battleground to Africa, which has more than its share of weak or failed states, and where U.S. forces attempting to step up counterterrorism efforts would be spread thin, makes perfect sense from the point of view of al-Qaida, the Taliban and their ilk. Let’s hope the United States doesn’t take the bait in a way that would play into that strategy.