Al Qaeda – looking for a new Afghanistan?

According to the Telegraph, it looks as if a branch of Al Qaeda is setting up shop in northern Mali.

… rather than waiting for events to turn in its favour in Afghanistan, the al-Qaeda brand is busily extending its franchise to other parts of the Muslim world where weak or dysfunctional governments allow it the space and opportunity to pursue its nefarious designs.

The trend started with al-Qaeda cells appearing in countries such as Yemen and Somalia, both failed states racked by civil war, where a new generation of Islamist militants were free to pursue their terrorist agenda. While the Somali-based cells mainly confined their activities to attacking diplomatic missions and tourist sites in East Africa, the Yemen-based groups, under the leadership of Anwar al-Awlaki, the US-educated radical cleric, were more ambitious, devising ingenious devices for bombing the American mainland, with deadly explosives hidden in the underwear of suicide bombers or concealed in printer ink cartridges.

Now the resourceful architects of al-Qaeda’s global jihad have moved even further afield, seizing control of a vast swath of desert scrubland in the African state of Mali. Like Afghanistan in the 1990s, Mali was ripe for exploitation by Islamist terror groups. A long-running insurgency by Tuareg separatists, who sought independence for their traditional tribal heartlands in the north of the country, severely weakened the ability of the government to exercise its authority.

The situation deteriorated further when units of well-armed Islamist mercenaries, equipped with weapons looted from Libya during the collapse of Gaddafi’s regime last summer, helped the Tuaregs to establish their own state in the north before seizing control of the region for themselves in a series of attacks against the main towns.

The final Tuareg stronghold fell yesterday, when al-Qaeda fighters drove the separatists from their last remaining base in Ansogo, in northern Mali, leaving the terrorist group in control of an area larger than France. As if to demonstrate their resolve to abide by strict religious dogma, the al-Qaeda fighters have vandalised ancient treasures at the World Heritage site at Timbuktu, where they destroyed two mausoleums on the grounds that they contained idolatrous images.

If this wanton act of desecration evokes memories of the destruction of the ancient Buddhas of Bamiyan by the Taliban on similar grounds in Afghanistan in March 2001, al-Qaeda’s takeover of this enormous desert tract potentially constitutes a far greater threat to our long-term security than bin Laden’s ramshackle training camps did a decade ago. Having captured six fully equipped counter-terrorism units that were originally donated by the CIA to the Malian forces to help their campaign against the Islamist militants, al-Qaeda fighters now have 87 new Land Cruisers equipped with satellite phones and the latest navigation equipment.

Even more alarming is the fact that they also have control over a network of airports, military bases, arms dumps and training camps, from which they can orchestrate their campaign of violence throughout the African continent and beyond.

There’s more at the link.  Another Telegraph article notes that Al Qaeda and/or movements with Al Qaeda sympathies is/are doing dangerous things in Syria as well.

Clearly, whack-a-terrorist is a bit like Whac-A-Mole.  You never run out of targets . . .



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