Sunday, January 27, 2013

Terrorism in Algeria and war in Mali demonstrate the increasing reach of Islamist extremism in Africa

    Sunday, January 27, 2013   No comments

ON JANUARY 16th three dozen heavily armed Islamic extremists seized control of a gas plant in the Saharan desert near In Amenas, taking some 650 workers hostage. Their subsequent battle with Algerian special forces, fought across a sprawling landscape of pipeline bundles and housing containers, lasted four days. The hostage-takers were said to have planned to blow up the pipelines, which would have meant a significant drop in Algeria’s exports. But there was no explosion, and soon the hostage-takers were killed, as were at least 37 of the foreign employees at the plant. Algeria takes an uncompromising approach to terrorist attacks.

That battle, along with the escalating war in neighbouring Mali (see article), has raised the spectre of a new jihadism spreading across Africa. Western governments worry that conflicts in the vast Sahara, and in the countries of the Sahel that lie along its southern edge, have become increasingly linked. The attack on the Algerian gas plant was most likely launched from neighbouring Libya. Its architects, hidden somewhere in the sandy expanse hundreds, perhaps many hundreds, of kilometres away, claimed to be supporting the groups in Mali now being attacked by French and west African forces.

Ed Isr

About Ed Isr

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