Ten thousand terror attacks in Africa over last decade - expert
Written by Guy Martin, Wednesday, 19 June 2013
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
- Congo and UN troops fire in air to stop machete-armed villagers
- Congolese army apparently attacked UN troops meeting rebels
- Burundi rebels trained by Rwandan military: UN experts
- Welcome parade for Mgwebi at MONUSCO
- European, U.N. troops accused of sexual abuse in Central African Republic
- U.N. chief tells African leaders not to "cling to power"
- Despite underfunding, SAAF is coping, Msimang says at Prestige Day Parade
- Peacekeepers accused of abusing children in Central African Republic: UN
- New technology to help SAPS tackle crime
- German parliament approves more soldiers for Mali, Iraq
Power of the Rooivalk on show during three-day demonstration
by Denel Corporate, 3 February 2016
The demonstration at the Denel Overberg Test Range will showcase the effectiveness of the Rooivalk deployed in tandem with the Denel Mokopa missile system.
Denel honours top-performing students who excel in science, technology
by Denel Corporate, 27 January 2016
Matriculants who participated in Denel's maths and science enrichment programmes received a 100% pass rate in the 2015 year-end exams.
Saab signs contract for Carl-Gustaf ammunition
by Saab, 13 January 2016
The total order value for the man-portable weapon system is about SEK1.4 billion. Information about the company will not be made public.