Ten thousand terror attacks in Africa over last decade - expert
The Institute’s Martin A Ewi said it was his opinion that terrorism is the greatest challenge facing Africa and the international community. He noted that over the last decade, the number of terror attacks in Africa may even be as high as 20 000.
According to the Inter-University Centre for Terrorism Studies, there have been 1 432 terror attacks just in the Maghreb and Sahel between 2001 and 2012, with attacks peaking in 2009.
Ewi noted that several years ago, North Africa was most affected by terrorism, with Algeria being an epicentre for attacks. However, terrorism has shifted to Somalia and its epicentre on the continent is now northeast Nigeria.
The ‘triangle of terrorism’ in Africa comprises Boko Haram in Nigeria, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in North Africa and al Shabaab in Somalia. Ewi said that other important terrorist groups active in Africa include Mujao and Ansar Dine. He said that Boko Haram was probably the most fierce group as it has the capability to strike at any time it wants.
Ewi said that the face of terrorism had evolved in Africa over the years, with ‘terrorist’ organisations fifty years ago also considered to be liberations. “Many of our leaders did not see the liberation struggles as terrorism,” Ewi said, as the terrorism of the 1960s and 1970s was very different to that of today as it was liberation terrorism.
Ewi said that a turning point in global terrorism came after the Soviet Union pulled out of Afghanistan in 1989. Islamic fighters returning home began advocating the establishment of Islamic (sharia) governments.
In Algeria, Islamists (the Islamic Salvation Front) won elections held in 1991, but after the elections were annulled by the army, the country was plunged into a ten year civil war. Ewi said that these Islamists are continuing a terror campaign till today – most recently, in January al Qaeda-linked terrorists, led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, took more than 800 people hostage at a gas facility near In Amenas in Algeria in one of the biggest ever hostage scenarios.
According to Ewi, the Mujahedin marked a different period of terrorism in Africa. When Osama bin Laden based al Qaeda in Sudan around 1993, this led to a number of terrorist attacks – notably the 1998 attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. These were significant because they were the first suicide bombings on the continent, Ewi said. “The concept of suicide attacks was now known in Africa.”
Since then, terrorism in Africa has been driven by Islamic fundamentalism and is seldom about political or ideological goals.
There exist a number of challenges to counterterrorism, Ewi said, including political and cultural sensitivities, poverty and unemployment, and human rights abuses. While there is no direct link between poverty and terrorism, Ewi noted that poor people are more susceptible to terrorist organisations as they will look anywhere for a way to survive.
Recommending ways for African countries to deal with terrorism, Ewi said that African states should proactively contain terrorism, revise legislature, enforce international and regional anti-terror treaties and use intelligence gathering to prevent attacks.
Ewi was speaking at a Homeland Security seminar held at IFSEC South Africa yesterday. IFSEC is one of the biggest commercial security, homeland security and fire exhibitions in Africa and runs from June 18 to 20 at Gallagher Estate in Midrand.
Top stories this week
- Soldiers involved in Port Elizabeth eviction showed “contempt” for the rule of law
- US hands over six Hueys to Kenya – two more on the way
- Shrinking defence budget has affected Armscor and forced change – retirees
- New JOps deputy chief named, but no word on a new Chief
- Low-tech proves effective for KZN/Mozambique border protection
- Poverty, prejudice drive more women to join Boko Haram
- Lured by power, female extremists prove hardest to help
- Helicopter-borne aid reaches north-eastern Nigeria
- Aid delivery in Niger hindered by Boko Haram attacks
- Niger Delta militants claim attack on state-owned NNPC's oil pipeline
- Nigerian Air Force AW101 damaged in accident
- Two girl suicide bombers attack north Cameroon town
- AI accuses Nigeria of killing at least 140 Biafra separatists
- Three Boko Haram assaults in under 24 hours in Cameroon
- Up to 1 mln people cut off from aid by Boko Haram in Lake Chad
Denel joins forces with global leaders to market geospatial products
by Denel Corporate, 6 December 2016
Denel Integrated Systems and Maritime will team up with Hexagon Geospatial and Geo Data Design to market geospatial products.
Saab receives order for Carl-Gustaf M4
by Saab, 6 December 2016
This is Saab's fourth customer for the system since its launch in late 2014.
Umkhonto missile ready for final testing on frigates
by Denel Corporate, 1 December 2016
Delivery of Denel's Umkhonto surface-to-air missile to an international client has reached an advanced stage, with testing scheduled for early 2017.