Terrorism in Africa: The Imminent Threat to the United States

Ansar al Sharia recruits receive training at a camp near Benghazi.

Ansar al Sharia recruits receive training at a camp near Benghazi.

Long War Journal, April 29, 2015:

Editor’s note: Below is Thomas Joscelyn’s testimony to the House Committee on Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence on the threat posed by jihadist groups in Africa. 

In preparing today’s testimony, I reviewed the history of al Qaeda’s plotting against the West. A number of facts demonstrate that al Qaeda’s presence in Africa has been tied to these efforts. For instance, declassified documents recovered in Osama bin Laden’s compound show that he ordered al Qaeda’s branches in Africa to select candidates capable of striking inside the U.S. Bin Laden also ordered al Qaeda’s African branches to coordinate their work with his “external operations” team, which was responsible for plotting attacks against Western interests. Some of al Qaeda’s most senior leaders, including those who have overseen al Qaeda’s planned attacks in the West, have come from Africa. Senior al Qaeda leaders embedded in Shabaab have also trained operatives to attack in Europe. I discuss this evidence in detail in the final section of my written testimony.

Complex tribal, ethnic, and religious dynamics mean that any summary of the situation in Africa will be necessarily incomplete.  However, I will attempt to distill some themes that are important for understanding the rising jihadist threat in the continent. While there are important differences between ISIS and al Qaeda, and the two are at odds with one another in a variety of ways, they are both inherently anti-American and anti-Western. Thus, they constitute a threat to our interests everywhere their jihadists fight.

Since the beginning of the year, the ISIS branch in Libya has repeatedly attacked foreign interests. The group has bombed and/or assaulted with small arms the Algerian, Moroccan, Iranian, South Korean and Spanish embassies in Tripoli. Fortunately, these attacks have caused only a few casualties, as foreign governments pulled most of their diplomatic personnel out of Libya months ago. But these incidents show the organization’s followers are deeply hostile to any foreign presence.

Other ISIS attacks on foreigners in Libya have been more lethal and at least two Americans have been killed by ISIS’ so-called “provinces.” In January, the group’s fighters launched a complex assault on the Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli. Ten people, including David Berry, a former U.S. Marine serving as a security contractor, were killed. In August 2014, jihadists from the ISIS province in the Sinai killed William Henderson, an American petroleum worker.

Some of ISIS’ most gruesome acts in North Africa have come with pointed threats against the West. In February, the jihadists beheaded 21 Egyptian Copts. The propaganda video showing the murders was entitled, “A Message Signed with Blood to the Nation of the Cross.” ISIS explicitly threatened Italy in the video and also made it clear that they would target Christians simply for adhering to a different faith. Earlier this month, ISIS’ branch followed up by killing a large group of Ethiopian Christians.

In March, ISIS claimed responsibility for the massacre at the Bardo National Museum in Tunis. More than 20 people were killed in the assault, which targeted foreign tourists. Citizens of Britain, France, Colombia, Germany, Italy, Japan, Poland, and Spain were among the victims. Although ISIS was quick to lay claim to the museum slayings, the reality is more complicated. The Tunisian government has blamed the Uqba ibn Nafi Brigade, which is part of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), an official branch of al Qaeda. Based on publicly-available information, it appears that the attackers may have joined ISIS, but the operation itself was planned by the AQIM brigade’s leadership.

Al Qaeda’s international network continues to launch high-profile attacks across the continent. Some of these operations directly target foreigners. Earlier this month, Shabaab, al Qaeda’s official branch in Somalia, killed more than 140 people at the Garissa University College in Kenya. The gunmen reportedly separated out non-Muslims for killing, letting many Muslims go. This shows that the organization, like other parts of al Qaeda, is very concerned about the impact of its violence in the Muslim-majority world. In this respect and others, the Garissa attack was similar to Shabaab’s siege of the Westgate shopping mall in September 2013. More than 60 people were killed, with Shabaab’s gunmen singling out non-Muslims. Shabaab’s attacks in Kenya and other neighboring countries are part of what the UN has identified as the group’s “regional” strategy. Shabaab has undoubtedly suffered setbacks since the height of its power in East Africa, but it still operates a prolific insurgency inside Somalia, while also seeking to expand its capabilities in the surrounding countries. In fact, America’s counterterrorism efforts in East Africa seem to be principally aimed at the part of Shabaab tasked with exporting terrorism throughout the region.

As we’ve seen over the past several years, al Qaeda-affiliated groups in Africa will attack American and Western interests when the opportunity presents itself.  The September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. Mission and Annex in Benghazi and the raid on the U.S. Embassy in Tunis three days later were carried out by al Qaeda-linked groups. The Ansar al Sharia organizations in Libya and Tunisia, both of which are tied to AQIM, were involved in these assaults on America’s diplomatic presence in North Africa. In early 2013, terrorists commanded by Mokhtar Belmokhtar killed dozens of foreign workers during the siege of the In Amenas gas facility in Algeria. Belmokhtar, who is openly loyal to Ayman al Zawahiri, claimed responsibility for operation on behalf of al Qaeda.

There is no doubt, therefore, that both ISIS and al Qaeda pose a threat to Western interests in Africa. Below, I explore current trends within both organizations, highlighting some ways these international networks may threaten Americans both home and abroad. But first, I briefly look at the different strategies ISIS and al Qaeda are employing to build up their networks.

Read more

***

Subcommittee Hearing: Terrorism in Africa: The Imminent Threat to the United States

Witnesses

Dr. J. Peter Pham
Director
Africa Center
Atlantic Council
Witness Statement [PDF]
Witness Truth in Testimony [PDF]

Mr. Thomas Joscelyn
Senior Fellow
Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Witness Statement [PDF]
Witness Truth in Testimony [PDF]

Dr. Daniel Byman
Research Director
Center for Middle East Policy
Center for Security Studies
Brookings Institution
Witness Statement [PDF]
Witness Truth in Testimony [PDF]

Terrorist Groups Take Advantage of South African Violence

82377795_dd6b3c8f-43f3-45a5-9f18-975676c3558eCSP, by Joshua Kraus, April 23, 2015:

In South Africa,  which is sometimes affectionately refereed to as a “rainbow nation,” gangs of black South African residents have taken machetes and torches to immigrants accused of taking scarce jobs and undermining an already unstable economy. According to the South African defense minister, this latest string of violence has killed at least seven people this month.

The anti-immigration violence is not new to South Africa. This type of bloodshed took place in 2008, killing 62 and displacing another 100,000 people. The world awoke to the type of atrocities that were happening in South Africa when Ernesto Alfabeto Nhamuave, a native of Mozambique, was photographed while being burned alive. His murder investigation was recently closed after a very questionable police investigation unsurprisingly resulted in no witnesses.

Both Islamic State affiliate Boko Haram and Al Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab have referenced the riots in recent propaganda statements.  Boko Haram has threatened that if the South African government does not limit this violence and stop the inexcusable murdering of Nigerians, it will execute all South Africans residing in Nigeria, Chad, Niger, and other surrounding countries. The embassies in those countries are being threatened as well.

Al-Shabaab has posted messages on social media sites with phrases explaining that “We (Al-Shabaab) will enter Durban” and “For all the foreign lives lost in SA (South Africa) there is a price to pay”.

Why have Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab insinuated themselves into the South Africa “xenophobia” story?

Recently, Kenya’s military and its people have waged character assassinations against the Somali people in retaliation for the attack on Garissa University that killed 148 people. Kenya sent a request to the United Nations to shut down Dadaab, one of the biggest refugee camps in Kenya for Somalia people. Kenyan security officials previously described Dadaab as a breeding ground for terror and a primary recruiting ground for Al-Shabaab in recent years. The camp’s house would force out more than 350,000 Somalia inhabitants back into Somalia. This perception of repression would only feed into the plight of the Somali people as their government has yet to defend them. Al-Shabaab is sure to take advantage of the maltreatment of the Somali people and form a tight knit community whose mission is to advance sharia law.

According to Aden Duale, a member of the Garissa Township National Assembly, Al-Shabaab is said to train in camps such as Daab and further conduct radicalization classes and suicide bombers from the camp. Both Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab’s advancement of protecting their own people from “xenophobia” can possibly lead to further destabilization of established governments due to the lack of respect for a class of people.

Jihadist organizations such as Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab are using classic insurgency tactics to radicalize a group of people and create homegrown terrorism. The refusal by the Kenyan government to acknowledge homegrown terrorism only gives more precedence for Al-Shabaab to operate safely and securely in refugee camps.

This refusal to acknowledge homegrown terrorism can translate to the global jihad movement within the United States. Since 1991, the U.S. State Department has imported more than 100,000 Somali nationals directly from United Nations refugee camps into U.S. cities and towns. According to State Department estimates, they arrive at a rate of 5,000 to 12,000 per year.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott: the only way to save lives in the Mediterranean is to STOP THE BOATS

Refugee Resettlement, by Ann Corcoran on April 21, 2015:

I figured I didn’t need to say much about the latest drowning deaths in the Mediterranean since for once the mainstream media seems to have noticed.

In July 2013 the Pope went to Lampedusa to great the invaders from North Africa and the Middle East. And, lectured Italians to be more welcoming.https://refugeeresettlementwatch.wordpress.com/2013/07/09/pope-lectures-on-lampedusa/

We have been writing about the ‘Invasion of Europe’ for what seems like years!

It goes on and on and European leaders don’t seem to get it.

The only way to save lives is to turn the boats back to the North African coast, and then let the UNHCR build some camps in Libya to house them and guard them.

It is either that or lose Europe completely as all of Africa and the Middle East want in!

And, by the way, this writer has no sympathy for the Pope (saying prayers as the news broke) since he helped encourage the invasion when he went to the Italian island of Lampedusa nearly two years ago and “welcomed” the invaders!

So here is the latest news from The Guardian about the sinking of yet one migrant vessel.

Italian police have arrested two suspected people traffickers among the survivors of the migrant boat that capsized on Sunday, as the United Nations confirmed that at least 800 people died in the sinking off the coast of Libya.

Prosecutors said they had detained a Tunisian man believed to be the captain of the vessel and a Syrian allegedly a member of the ship’s crew, taken from a group of 27 haggard survivors who arrived in the Sicilian port of Catania on Monday evening.

The two were charged with people trafficking and the captain was also charged with reckless multiple homicide in relation to the sinking.

The arrests came after an emergency meeting of EU interior and foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Monday made a decision to launch military operations against the networks of smugglers in Libya, as well as to bolster maritime patrols in the Mediterranean and give their modest naval mission a broader search-and-rescue mandate for saving lives.

Flavio Di Giacomo, spokesperson for IOM Italy, said those on board had come from Gambia, Ivory coast, Somalia, Eritrea, Mali, Tunisia, Sierra Leone, Bangladesh and Syria.Reports said all those on board were male, several of them unaccompanied children.The Guardian tells us the average age of the migrants was 25-years-old.  And male!  Sounds like an army to me!

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has the only solution if the European Union wants to save lives AND save Europe. 

You will find this near the end of The Guardian’s story.  LOL! I think they call this burying the lead!

Tony Abbott: Stop the boats!

Tony Abbott: Stop the boats!

Australia’s prime minister has urged European leaders to adopt tougher border control measures. Tony Abbott, whose government implemented a strict policy of turning back asylum seekers’ boats in a bid to discourage them from trying to reach Australia, called the latest Mediterranean crisis a “terrible, terrible tragedy” and suggested Europe follow Australia’s lead to ensure it was not repeated.

“The only way you can stop the deaths is to stop the people smuggling trade. The only way you can stop the deaths is, in fact, to stop the boats,” Abbott told reporters in the nation’s capital, Canberra. “That’s why it is so urgent that the countries of Europe adopt very strong policies that will end the people smuggling trade across the Mediterranean.”

See our archive on recent Australian success in stopping boats filled with illegal migrants.  And, our whole ‘Invasion of Europe’ series is here.

TERROR: Death toll from Boko Haram attack in Cameroon rises to 19, majority of victims were beheaded

bok (1)

Today, by Olawale Kadir, April 19, 2015:

Nineteen people were killed in Thursday night’s attack on a Cameroonian village by Nigeria-based Boko Haram militants, a security source said in an updated toll, adding that most of the victims were beheaded, AFP reports. “The final toll from this attack is 19 dead, with a majority of the victims decapitated,” a security source said Saturday on condition of anonymity. Security sources had previously said 10 civilians were killed in the cross-border raid on the village of Bia in Cameroon’s Far North region. The attack comes after a regional military offensive — which includes Cameroon — has claimed a string of successes in their fightback against the Islamist militants in Nigeria in recent weeks. Bia, which borders Lake Chad, has been identified previously by security forces as a recruiting ground for Boko Haram militants. The source speaking to AFP on Saturday said security forces were slow to react to the raid on Bia, located in an area with several military bases. “We noted a late response by our forces,”, the source said.

“Many huts were burned down,” the source added. Also during the night from Thursday to Friday, Boko Haram Islamists attacked a Cameroon army position in Amchide, on the border with Nigeria. “They burned houses in Amchide, but without losses on our side. The attack was repulsed. We don’t know yet about casualties on the enemy side,” a security source told AFP on Friday. The insurgency by Boko Haram — which is seeking to create a hardline Islamic state — has killed some 13,000 people in northeast Nigeria and sent 1.5 million fleeing their homes since 2009. The group had in recent months widened its attacks into neighbouring nations, prompting Chad, Cameroon and Niger to launch a joint offensive with the Nigerian army, resulting in a series of rebel-held towns and villages being recaptured in Nigeria’s northeast. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan’s perceived inability to end the six-year insurgency was a factor in his election defeat last month. Nigerian President-elect Muhammadu Buhari has vowed to rid the country of the “terror” of Boko Haram.

Caliphate over Africa: The Islamic State’s Boko Haram Franchise

article-0-1D9622CB00000578-650_634x403Religious Freedom Coalition, by Andrew Harrod, April 1, 2015:

Nigerian human rights lawyer Emmanuel Ogebe discussed with Powerpoint a “New Arc of Evil:  The Boko Haram/ISIS Merger” during the Hudson Institute’s March 23 panel “Boko Haram, the Islamic State’s West African Franchise.”  Ogebe and his fellow panelists examined before an audience of about 50 the dangerous, bloody ramifications of unity between Nigeria’s Boko Haram jihadists and their similarly brutal allies in the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Ogebe noted a recent “wedding announcement in the Washington Post” in which Boko Haram proposed and ISIS accepted an allegiance to the latter’s self-declared caliphate, a move that reflected the two groups’ “grudging admiration and rivalry.”  While Hudson religious freedom scholar Nina Shea saw in Nigeria under the ravages of the “ultra-violent” Boko Haram “human rights suffering…of epic proportions,” a Boko Haram -ISIS alliance will only worsen matters.  Boko Haram jihadists “already have an international operation going” that has killed nationals from 15 states, stated Ogebe.  Boko Haram’s “large operational theater” encompasses not just Nigeria but its neighbors of Niger, Mali, and Cameroun, an area more extensive than ISIS’ considerable holdings.  ISIS has called for “Muslim brothers” who cannot reach it to join Boko Haram, creating thereby a “whole new frontier of terror” and “new flank” in Boko Haram, as demonstrated by Frenchmen caught fighting for Boko Haram in Cameroun.

Ogebe’s slides noted that Boko Haram was the world’s third deadliest terrorist organization after Taliban groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan during the years 2009-2013 while ISIS was only in fourth place.  News reports and ISIS’s “more tech savvy” media edge over Boko Haram despite its recent advances obscured that Boko Haram was the deadlier of the two groups, killing more people last January than ISIS killed in six months last year.  While ISIS beheading of 21 Egyptian Copts in Libya garnered a shocked world’s attention, Boko Haram killed over 150 in September 2013 with chainsaws used to behead quickly Christians caught in a staged army checkpoint.

Ogebe observed that Boko Haram’s “threshold for horror” continually rises and amazes him with ever greater heights of brutality.  Boko Haram’s slaughter of 59 boys at a boarding school and kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls in the village of Chibok followed in 2014 the “chainsaw massacre.”  Al Qaeda (AQ) actually condemned the “mind-numbing” Chibok kidnappings, Ogebe recalled; “that’s when you know that you are in a really bad place.”  Recently retreating Boko Haram fighters had killed their wives so that they would not remarry and supposedly be available in heaven.  The Nigerian Bukky Shonibare from the Bring Back Our Girls aid campaign for the Chibok girls suggested that Boko Haram killed these wives, who in many cases are just adolescents forced into marriage, in order to prevent their revealing information.  Ogebe noted that Boko Haram took 13 years before its annual killing rate last year equaled the Taliban; “given a little time, they can do great damage” in a “piecemeal Third World War” first suggested by Pope Francis.

At times on the verge of tears, Shonibare brought Boko Haram horrors in her Nigerian home to life.  She discussed how 57 of the Chibok girls had left Boko Haram captivity in various ways, sometimes returning home pregnant or infected with HIV/AIDS.  Some of the girls had developed an allegiance to their captors under a Stockholm syndrome, such as one girl released by Boko Haram who actually killed her own mother.  Boko Haram has also duped “innocent, naïve girls” into suicide bombing operations, forcing mothers of the Chibok captives to worry about losing their daughters whenever there is a suicide bombing report.  Referencing the four Nigerian schoolgirls sitting in the front row at Hudson, escapees from Boko Haram within the first two days of the Chibok kidnapping, Ogebe noted that three of them had lost family members to Boko Haram violence in the last month, a terrible statistic.

In the face of such a grave struggle, Ogebe criticized deficient foreign aid for Nigeria.  He had a “rude awakening” following the Bring Back Our Girls Twitter campaign when only private, but no public, resources became available to bring Boko Haram escapees to the United States for assistance.  The American government even denied one girl a visa.

The Nigerian government also requested military training from the United States, but met with American objections that Nigerian forces did not possess proper equipment, Ogebe said.  Yet American officials rebuffed Nigerian military equipment cash purchases even as an Iraq fighting ISIS and suffering from depressed oil prices received American military aid credits.  Nigeria, meanwhile, had hired South African and Russian mercenaries to fight Boko Haram, showing how “in Nigeria you have to outsource a lot of stuff,” he said.  Along with Boko Haram foreign fighters, “two can play at this game,” but he worried about the mercenaries’ capabilities in light of a South African’s recent friendly fire death.

Shea critiqued American policymaker unwillingness to recognize Boko Haram’s jihadist ideology.  As on previous occasions, she cited Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson’s ludicrous 2012 statement that Boko Haram violence resulted from socioeconomic grievances like “poor government service delivery.”  By contrast, Ogebe recalled Boko Haram’s original name of the “Nigerian Taliban” and how coalition forces overthrowing the Taliban after AQ’s September 11, 2001, attacks discovered Nigerian Muslims in Afghanistan.  “Maybe this merger will now get their attention,” Shea stated.

Shea’s comments are noteworthy, for as Boko Haram and ISIS show, neglect and ignorance merely allow jihadist threats to metastasize over time. Boko Haram and ISIS present growing dangers in their own right to their respective regions and the wider world.  Cooperation between the two and other jihadist groups will only multiply the threats.  Freedom’s defenders have no time for idleness before such gathering storms.

Report: ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and Boko Haram Training Together

AP Photo/Militant Website, Fil

AP Photo/Militant Website, Fil

Breitbart, by John Hayward, March 24, 2015:

According to Veryan Khan of the Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium, the great under-the-radar terror threat comes from an expanse of the Sahara Desert in Mauritania, where ISIS, al-Qaeda, and Boko Haram are working together to train Western recruits for jihad, including terror attacks in Europe and North America.

“The situation in Mauritania is a powder keg very few people are talking about,” Khan told Fox News.

When the first stories about Boko Haram’s idolization of ISIS broke, some analysts were confident the two terror groups would never work together, because the Islamic State was supposedly too racist to cooperate with their African fan club. That analysis disintegrated completely over the past few months, as ISIS officially embraced Boko Haram as a franchise of their “caliphate.” Operational cooperation, especially in the form of tactical training badly needed by the enthusiastic but sloppy Boko Haram terrorists, would be the next logical step.

Khan’s organization has a source in Mauritania that says at least 80 trainees — including recruits from the U.S., Canada, and Europe — are quartered at the camps, which are located in the sparsely-populated desert interior of the country. “Signs in English can be seen in videos and photos obtained by TRAC inside one of the main camps at the Maatamoulana Mosque, providing unmistakable evidence of westerners’ presence,” writes Fox News.

The joint terrorist training project got a big shot in the arm when Mauritania’s government released five top terrorists following a prison riot in which they took two guards hostage and threatened to not only kill the hostages, but hunt down and slaughter their families as well.  The five were prominent members of al-Qaeda and one of its parent organizations, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat.  Several of them have experience with jihadi recruitment and training.

It is not clear from the Fox News report if any of these five are thought to be actively participating in the Mauritania camps, or if their release was more of a morale-booster and propaganda coup for the camp management.  The article does run down a list of headline-grabbing terrorists who made trips to Mauritania, which offers little in the way of amenities for jihadis besides the desert training facility. Suspected veterans of the training program include three Canadians who joined al-Qaeda in a bloody attack on an Algerian gas plant in 2013, a Florida-based cleric who allegedly used his seminary to funnel terrorist recruits to Mauritania, and a French citizen involved in the execution of ISIS hostage Peter Kassig.

As for Boko Haram’s involvement, it is noted that the leader of the Nigerian gang has claimed some of his thugs were trained in Mauritania, and indeed Boko Haram’s ideology was incubated there. “There also are links between Mauritania and Boko Haram evident in its interaction with Al Qaeda for training and the supply lines for finance and weapons,” Khan told Fox News.  “In addition, there are recruitment centers and organized crime networks in Mauritania facilitating ISIS expansion in North and Central Africa.”

Mauritania has also arrested several suspected ISIS terrorists who bragged that the Islamic State was “on its way to that country,” and a major Mauritanian terrorist brigade recently pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.  It was not merely a rhetorical salute, as a couple of Mauritanian terrorists were subsequently arrested trying to smuggle a load of cash and weapons into Mali.

The Mauritanian terror gangs have been quite active, according to Fox News:

Within Mauritania, there have been several terrorism related incidents waged by jihadists since 2005, including the assassination of four French tourists in Aleg by Al Qaeda, attacks on the Israeli and French embassies, clashes between Al Qaeda members and Mauritanian forces in Tevragh Zeina, the beheading of 12 Mauritanian soldiers, the murder of Christopher Ervin Leggett, a U.S. citizen, the kidnapping of three Spanish citizens, the kidnapping of an Italian couple kidnapped and other embassy attacks that were prevented.

CNN recently ran a disturbing profile of African terrorism that cited Jane’s Defense Weekly’s description of Mauritania as “an aspirational target for jihadist groups due to its military co-operation with France and Algeria.” The World Policy blog proposed Mauritania as part of an urgently-needed African “security belt,” and wondered how al-Qaeda’s interests in Africa would respond to the encroachment of ISIS — “will AQ affiliates strengthen when challenged, or will they pledge bayat [allegiance] to IS like Boko Haram has done?”  If all three groups are cooperating at terror camps in Mauritania, we may have the beginnings of an answer to that question, and it’s not a good answer.

Islamic State Threatens Italy

One of many rescues by the Italian government.  What will Italy, Malta and other European countries do with the migrants? None of these mostly young men will be sent back!  https://refugeeresettlementwatch.wordpress.com/2015/02/16/armed-smugglers-threaten-italian-coast-guard-as-2200-more-migrants-brought-to-europe-from-libya/

One of many rescues by the Italian government. What will Italy, Malta and other European countries do with the migrants? None of these mostly young men will be sent back! https://refugeeresettlementwatch.wordpress.com/2015/02/16/armed-smugglers-threaten-italian-coast-guard-as-2200-more-migrants-brought-to-europe-from-libya/

CSP, by Sean MacCormac, Feb. 18, 2015:

Ever since the fall of the Gaddafi regime in Libya, the embattled nation has become fertile ground for Islamist rebels to set up an aspiring Islamic emirate. Islamic State has established a foothold in Libya by acquiring the allegiance of several Islamist organizations within the country. The strategy in Libya differed from Islamic State’s actions in Syria; the militant organization sent envoys to Libyan Islamist rebels to enlist their aid in the creation of a new caliphate. Islamic State had aggressively sought recruitment efforts in Libya and courted jihadist groups such as Al Qaeda-linked Ansar al-Shariah in neighboring states under pressure from anti-terrorist initiatives, first gaining their aid in Syria before turning their focus back towards Libya. As the two opposing Libyan governments fought each other, they neglected to confront the common Islamic State threat.

As of late, Islamic State-affiliated jihadists in Libya have become increasingly more aggressive in their attacks, targeting oil installations and hotels as well as executing Christians on video. Fears mount over Islamic State’s success in Libya, and of the nation becoming a center for jihadism in the region. As a response to the beheading video, the Egyptian government launched an airstrike on the jihadist hotbed of Derna, killing over sixty fighters.

Now, however, Islamic State has threatened to invade Italy. During the beheading video, Islamic State propagandist Abu Arhim al-Libim stated that Islamic State “will conquer Rome, by Allah’s permission.” al-Libim cited the large amounts of weaponry present in Libya held by Islamic State and that the Sicilian coast was less than 300 miles away from Libya’s coast. In fact, an ISIS report recovered by Libyan media in January states that the Islamic State intends to flood Italy with illegal immigrants to overwhelm the country’s defenses and infrastructure. It would be a simple matter for Islamic State to infiltrate agents within the large number of refugees from Libya, yet the Italian government is still in favor of taking in large amounts of refugees. Already, there are thousands of refugees fleeing Libya and making the risky cross-Mediterranean travel to Italy, even as Italy withdraws all personnel from its embassy in Tripoli.

The Italian government has already taken actions to ensure the nation’s security in the face of the threat from Islamic State. Security in Rome has been tightened greatly after Islamic State directly threatened the Italian capital. The Italian Parliament is to be briefed on Libya Thursday, and there is already considerable support for possible military action against Islamic State in Libya. Italian defense minister Robert Panotti stated that 5,000 troops could be deployed to Libya if necessary, though Prime Minster Matteo Renzi confirms that the position of the Italian government for the time being is to wait until the UN Security Council reaches an agreement. With that in mind, it is unclear if the Italian armed forces are in any condition for an invasion of Libya; the 5,000 troops mentioned could very well be the only troops available for an expeditionary force due to the heavy military cuts conducted two years ago.

Egyptian beheadings show ISIS taking ‘global jihad’ to rest of Arab world

Published on Feb 16, 2015 by jim hoft  (who reminds us that Ansar al-Sharia claimed responsibility for the Benghazi attack and 3 emails were sent to the WH informing them of this on the night of the attack)

Fox News, Feb. 16, 2015:

The Islamic State’s mass execution of Egyptian Christians is the latest sign that ISIS is pointing its sword against not just the West but the rest of the Arab world — drawing the region into a spreading war that leaves the United States in a difficult spot as it tries to marshal a cohesive coalition.

That coalition started last fall as a U.S.-led airstrike campaign involving several Gulf states, and Jordan. Not only have a host of western nations since joined to offer at least financial support, but several other countries in the Middle East and North Africa are now launching their own military campaigns.

On Monday, Egyptian warplanes struck at ISIS militants in Libya, in retaliation for the mass execution of Coptic Christians from Egypt. The airstrikes reportedly were coordinated with the Libyan government.

Meanwhile, Iran is said to be fueling Shiite militias now battling ISIS militants on the ground in Iraq, as Iraq’s military loses strength. Syria’s Assad regime has been fighting ISIS from the start. And Jordan, a U.S. ally, has escalated its role in the coalition after a captured Jordanian pilot was burned alive by the Islamic State.

The distinct campaigns have raised questions about the direction of the anti-ISIS coalition and alliances in the region.

“It’s much more like Game of Thrones, and much less like a seriously thought-through strategy against a regional opponent,” Danielle Pletka, senior vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, told FoxNews.com.

With ISIS-aligned militants battling on so many fronts in the region, analysts say the organization is trying to demonstrate its clout, in turn boosting its already-robust recruitment.

The multiple fronts, though, create challenges for the Obama administration. The Washington Post reported Monday that Iran-backed militias are taking the fight to ISIS in Iraq — which in turn increases Iran’s already growing influence in that country.

The impact of Egypt’s entry into Libya remains to be seen. But retired Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer, a former military intelligence officer now with the London Center for Policy Research, said: “Egypt jumping into Libya is not part of the [U.S.] plan.”

Amid the chaos, Shaffer said his group is urging the creation of a single “comprehensive treaty organization” — a standing coalition of countries in the region, which he describes as a sort of “Arab NATO.” Such a group, he said, could organize against ISIS and plan for establishing post-ISIS governance in areas where there is none. This could include Jordan, Egypt and several other governments all fighting a common enemy, which he stressed as critical.

“If everyone is in charge, no one is in charge,” he said, describing the current patchwork of local battles in the region.

Matthew Levitt, counterterrorism analyst with The Washington Institute, described the strikes in Libya as a separate issue from other Islamic State battles, and one fed by the severe instability in that country. “It’s a problem for Egypt, because they’re right next door,” he noted.

But regardless of how connected the Libya fighting is to the broader Islamic State crisis, the entire conflict has had a curious side effect: drawing attention away from what once was the No. 1 enemy in the region, Israel.

Even before the rise of ISIS, analysts say, some Arab states in the region were beginning to — quietly — work with Israel on various challenges including Iran. Now with ISIS the singular force uniting a region notoriously riven by tribal, religious and territorial differences, Israel is on the sidelines.

“This is actually not about Israel, for the first time in a long time,” Levitt said.

He suggested it best for Israel not to play any active role in the current conflict but said the reality is the Gulf states are now realizing “that not every evil in the world … has to do with Israel.”

Pletka said, further, “They and the Israelis see the region through the same prism.”

Whether this results in the long run in Israel being seen as less of an enemy of the Arab world — or simply means Israel becomes the target of fewer United Nations condemnations for a short spell — it represents a significant change, analysts say.

“This is a major, tectonic shift,” Pletka said.

The Islamic State, meanwhile, continues to incite surrounding countries, chiefly through the tactic of horrific executions.

The video released online over the weekend showed 21 Egyptian victims kneeling on a beach, before being beheaded. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi quickly vowed revenge, saying the whole world is in a “fierce battle with extremist groups.”

Both the Egyptian government and Libya’s fragile state are facing internal threats from militants claiming loyalty to ISIS. Egypt already is battling ISIS militants in the Sinai Peninsula, and the airstrikes in neighboring Libya mark an expansion of that fight.

“Clearly, this is a global jihad right before our eyes,” retired Gen. Jack Keane, a Fox News military analyst, said of the ISIS-driven killings.

In a written statement, the White House condemned the “despicable and cowardly murder of twenty-one Egyptian citizens in Libya by ISIL-affiliated terrorists.”

The White House noted that the killing “is just the most recent of the many vicious acts perpetrated by ISIL-affiliated terrorists against the people of the region, including the murders of dozens of Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai, which only further galvanizes the international community to unite against ISIL.”

The White House urged a “political resolution” to the ongoing conflict in Libya. The White House is hosting a summit later this week on “countering violent extremism.”

FoxNews.com’s Judson Berger contributed to this report.

Also see:

Eichmann in Washington: Genocide Architect Welcomed by State Department, Congress, and the National Prayer Breakfast

2634079400CSP, by Nicholas Hanlon, Feb. 5, 2015:

Hannah Arendt is known for her book, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil.  She fled Germany in the nineteen thirties during the rise of Hitler.  Her book and its title came from her reporting on the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem, who was a key organizer of the Holocaust.  She coined the phrase, ‘banality of evil’ because of the moral detachment of a man just doing his job.

Our State Department, Congress, and the organizers of the National Prayer Breakfast are accepting Sudanese Prime Minister Ali Karti as a man who is just doing his job.  He is being given the legitimacy of a Statesman by each of these symbolic bodies of the U.S. government and civil society.

Ali Karti was promoted to the position of Prime Minister in 2010 after leading the Sudanese Popular Defense Force.  The Popular Defense Force is best known for genocide in South Sudan.  They also armed Janjaweed militias, which carried out much of the genocide in Darfur along with the PDF.  The PDF is a military extension of the National Islamic Front.  The NIF is the Sudanese political party founded by Hassan al-Turabi.  He is the Muslim Brotherhood leader who harbored Osama Bin Laden.  The Janjaweed were originally a creation of Muamar Qadaffi to Arabize Chad and Sudan.  Their intent is to cleanse Africa of black non-Muslims.

The PDF first carried out genocide in South Sudan. They were slave raiders that took women and children, killed men, and burned villages in South Sudan.  Tens of thousands of slaves.  That was in the nineties.  Then, the PDF turned to helping the Janjaweed in Darfur in the 00’s.

Granted the comparison to Eichmann is rough.  Ali Karti is not as morally distanced from his crime, as was Adolf Eichmann.  Were he to be captured and tried in Juba, the comparison would break down less quickly.  Eichmann was not able to repair his image in the eyes of the West like Karti.  Karti is known in the Sudanese President Omar Bashir’s cabinet as an advocate for dialogue.  The Khartoum regime clearly learned from the Iran negotiations that the prospect of prolonged talks could distance themselves from pesky issues such as war crime charges from the ICC and the arming of rebels in the South Sudan conflict.

Every U.S. official and congressman who shakes Karti’s hand will be complicit in legitimizing the Khartoum regime’s rational for their atrocities.  Ignorance as a self-defence for failing to recognize the symbolic significance of Karti’s acceptance by Washington will be no comfort to the surviving African families of Karti’s victims.

Watch the news coverage of the National Prayer Breakfast tomorrow.  Will the press challenge our government for their approval of Karti?  Will well meaning religious observers be duped into the same tacit acceptance of one of this generations greatest monsters?

African Nations to Send 7,500 Troops to Combat Boko Haram – Why is Iran so Interested?

The African Union (AU) has agreed to send a multi-nation force of 7,500 troops to Nigeria to assist the Nigerian military in combating Boko Haram. Interestingly enough, the Iranian regime has offered their “services” to assist this multi-nation force. Apparently Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian has been involved with African nations affected by Boko Haram to provide assistance. Specifically, the regime informed the AU that they’re willing to share their experiences and intelligence gained over the years in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Africa – Nigeria and Somalia in particular. Its also worth noting that Iran had representatives at the two-day summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia that the announcement of the troop deployment was made. They were there as “observers.”

7,500 troops to fight Boko Haram

http://www.thecourier.co.uk/news/international/7-500-troops-to-fight-boko-haram-1.818195?utm_content=buffer2aada&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Iran Offers to Help Fight Boko Haram

http://www.nigerianeye.com/2015/02/iran-offers-to-help-fight-boko-haram.html

So why is Iran so interested in Africa? Well, the IRG-Qods Force and Hezbollah have both been very active on the continent over the past decade, so this isn’t a new phenomenon at all (remember, the IRGC has arms production factories in Sudan). Their expansion into the continent began to really expand when the first indicators of foreign fighters were making their way into Syria in the early days of the “Arab Spring.” Since then their objectives have been the following:

1. Keep tabs on the foreign fighter networks providing personnel and weapons to anti-Shia efforts in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.

2. Eliminate the key personnel in those foreign fighter networks.

3. Conduct target development for when (and it will happen) the Qods Force and Hezbollah cells in Africa receive the green light to begin attacking American, Israeli and British diplomatic facilities, military personnel and civilians.

IRGC-Qods Force Insignia Source: iranwatch.org

IRGC-Qods Force Insignia
Source: iranwatch.org

The 2011-2013 time period saw a sharp increase in Qods Force and Hezbollah activity in Nigeria with Nigerian security forces having made several arrests of individuals associated with both organizations on terrorism charges. Nigeria is an anomaly, as other African nations have kept their mouths shut on the expansion of the Qods Force/Hezbollah networks in the western and eastern parts of the continent. Much of this has to do with Iran’s increased involvement in the economic, political and cultural fields, thus creating a co-dependent relationship (as the regime has been looking for ways to circumvent sanctions, although this may well be moot now that the Obama administration is on the job). However, there was one incident in JUN 12 where two Iranian nationals – identified as Ahmed Abolfathi Muhammad and Sayid Mansur Mousavi – who were arrested in Nairobi, Kenya for possessing explosive material. Apparently they had a lot more that was shipped into the country that Kenyan security forces weren’t able to find. The two individuals were suspected of plotting to conduct attacks targeting the Israeli, US, British and Saudi diplomatic missions. They received life sentences.

Out of Iran, into Africa: Hezbollah’s scramble for Africa

http://www.haaretz.com/news/features/.premium-1.530327

Nigeria has long been known for being a major hotbed of Qods Force and Hezbollah activity, going as far back as 2004 when an Iranian diplomat was arrested of casing the Israeli embassy in Abuja. In FEB 13, Nigerian security forces arrested Abdullahi Mustapha Berende and two other Nigerians for attempting to establish a proxy group that was reportedly trained in Iran. They were said to have been planning to attack American targets in Lagos. Berende himself allegedly first traveled to Iran in 2006, where he received his Islamic education and returned again in 2011 for weapons and explosives training. His Qods Force handlers tasked him with collecting intelligence on hotels and public places frequented by Americans and Israelis to identify potential targets for future attacks. Berende himself admitted that he worked with the Iranians and had received $30,000 USD to carry out the operations. A few months later, his associate Iranian national Azim Aghajani and another Nigerian accomplice were sentenced to five years for their involvement to smuggle a shipment of weapons into West Africa. The case was opened on them when Nigerian security forces opened 13 containers at Apapa Port in OCT 10 and found the weapons to include 107mm rockets, among other things. The shipment was bound for Gambia. The US government has linked Aghajani to the Qods Forces’ Department 400 External OPs Division. In keeping with the usual Qods Force TTPs, Aghajani was moving the weapons throughout Africa with the use of front companies such as Behineh Trading Co.

Read more at The ISIS Study Group

****

2743059668Iran in Africa: A Tutorial Overview (centerforsecuritypolicy.org)

Iran’s activity in Africa is a model of their strategic conduct that allows them an asymmetric advantage over the United States in terms of diplomacy and statecraft. This pattern of behavior is adaptable and observable in Latin America as well as in Africa. Where there are weak governing institutions and fertile soil for anti-American sentiment of any form, the Iranian regime will seek global allies, revenue streams, resources, and capabilities that serve them well on the world stage.

This is an introductory overview meant to give a broad picture of behavior and intention. The open source record of Iranian, Hezbollah, and Quds Force activity in Africa is extensive.

Click here to download pdf of complete overview. See video presentation.

Boko Haram Discusses Baga Massacre, Ideology in New Video

 

CSP, by Kyle Shideler, Jan. 28, 2015

The jihadist group known as Boko Haram, appears to have released a new video featuring an interview with the group’s spokesman Sheikh Abu Mus’ab Al barnawi. Regarding its recent successes in attacks on towns in the Lake Chad region Al Barnawi says:

As for it’s importance to us, it’s because of it removes that military presence from the lands of the Islamic state, and hence establish the Shariah of Allah in the region, and attain safety and security in it for Muslims. It’s known that those military complexes if they go to a place they corrupt it and injustice rules over it, and we by the Grace of Allah alone have managed to conquer this city and add it to the cities of the Islamic state in Africa.

It’s not immediately clear if Al barnawi means the term Islamic State in a generic sense, or if he is referring to the self-declared Caliphate represented by ISIS leader AbuBakr Al Baghdadi, but Boko Haram has increasingly utilized the flag and symbols of ISIS in its media presentations, and has expressed support for, if not allegiance to Al Baghdadi. In the video, Al barnawi is explicit regarding the group’s larger goals of establishing Sharia and expresses irritation at the insistence of the western media’s referring to the group as Boko Haram rather than by its official name Jama’aat Ahul Sunna wall el Daa’wa wal Jihad (Group for the Propagation of the Sunnah and Jihad). The Boko Haram spokesman also denied allegations that the group engaged in Takfirism (the practice of declaring fellow Muslims to be infidels), spending several minutes denying the claim.

We have come to give victory to AlSunna and to establish the governance of Allah on earth. As for accusing us of shedding Muslims’ blood that’s not true, and Allah is our witness. How do we fight them if we fight for their cause? When we entered the city that was what is called the stick carriers “Catodqora,” they collaborated with the armies of the false deity and carried their weapons, and stood by them. We fought who fought us, and they know they fought us, and when they saw our strength they fled the city, some by sea, some to the forests, and yet we send them this message: Who fought or didn’t fight us who comes repenting will be forgiven and we give him safety and security because we are a nation whose morals refuse to initiate harm on who doesn’t harm us.

“Stick carriers”, presumably refers to vigilante groups which have sprung up in some northern Nigerian towns in order to repulse attacks by the jihadist group. As is common in jihadist propaganda material, the focus of the group remains on the establishment of the Islamic State, and enforcement of Shariah. There are no references to corruption, disparity in oil wealth, or endemic poverty, the sorts of so-called “root causes” that drive State Department policy on Nigeria.

Paris Attack Inspires Praise and Action from Terrorist Leaders in Africa

CSP, by Nicholas Hanlon, Jan. 13, 2015:

Mokhtar Belmokhtar

Mokhtar Belmokhtar

The jihadist attacks in Paris by Cherif and Said Kaouchi have drawn praise and a call to arms from Africa’s top terrorists.  Former al Qaeda member Mokhtar Belmokhtar (also former leader of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat and AQIM) who now runs his own group, Signers in Blood, praised the Kaouchi brothers as the ‘best knights’ for their cause.  Belmokhtar urged Muslims everywhere to carry out similar attacks. Belmokhtar’s exploits in Algeria and far exceed the talents of the Kaouchi brothers save only the symbolic potency of Charlie Hebdo as a target.

The North African branch of al Qaeda also issued praise separately from Belmokhtar.  AQIM used it’s statements to associate the Charlie Hebdo attacks with French counter terrorism activity in Africa and particularly operations in Mali where the French have been at the forefront in the fight against al Qaeda.  Al Qaeda, erroneously declared to have been decimated by the Obama administration, does find the French to be it’s primary challenger on the continent along side Algerian and Moroccan counter terrorism efforts.   AQIM stands to gain from the U.S. administration’s chronic misreading of the capability and intentions of Islamist movements in Africa.  Their ability to capitalize on such misreads is precedent in an AQIM strategy document discovered in early 2013 where AQIM emir instructed his followers to mask their international intentions and gain ground with small insurgency movements.  In other words, the Islamist version of ‘think global act local’ will continue to act global the more they go unchallenged in Africa.

Boko Haram is ISIS in Africa

165551161CSP, by Nicholas Hanlon, Jan. 8, 2015:

Like the U.S. non-response to the Syrian civil war which gave rise to ISIS, Boko Haram has been allowed to fester in Nigeria.  Inaction emboldens the merciless Islamist militants and makes them stronger.

Boko Haram currently holds a military base in Baga, a tri-border town on Lake Chad in the North Eastern most part of Nigeria near Cameroon and Chad.  The sum of territory Boko Haram holds is comparable to that of ISIS.  There are reports that some 2000 lives were taken when Baga fell and in the aftermath.  The strength of Boko Haram’s hold on such territory rests largely on the fear in the hearts of the land’s inhabitants as does the strength of the Taliban in Afghanistan and ISIS in Iraq.   The White House has given relatively minor attention to Boko Haram.  The nature of the group’s rise and territorial occupation would raise the same foreign policy debates about military expedition and counter insurgency as the Taliban and ISIS did were Boko Haram anywhere else but Africa.  The current unprofessional conduct of the Nigerian military defies the best practices of a counter insurgency and does more to drive locals into Boko Haram’s merciless arms.  The best advice still demands a large force of well trained soldiers to take back, secure, and keep territory.  But who is prepared to take on the task?

For any heads of state that may come to terms with that reality, several questions follow.   Who could muster such resolve and force, and who would?  Baga represented the regional response.  It is where the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) was meant to base its operations that includes Cameroon, Chad, and Niger.  Cameroonian president Biya was able to recess a previous military base attack with airstrikes and has sent 7000 troops to the border.  Perhaps in recognition of Biya’s reliability, AFRICOM stepped up its counter terrorism cooperation with Cameroon in December.

In the new world we live in now, it is clear that the U.S. will not take initiative in Nigeria. The White House press office has put out a fact sheet that reads more like a check list on how to do as little as possible and still appear engaged. Wrought with generalizations the list makes broad statements referencing funding for already existing programs.  The primary measures of substance point to the new Security Governance Initiative but there are no resolute statements that speak to actually defeating Boko Haram.

Even if it were a willing Strong Horse, U.S. military resources have now long since been vultured by domestic politics, misused, and diffused of their strategic posture.  Further, the president made clear in his 2014 West Point address that he did not consider U.S. military power an important or primary tool of state craft.  Likening the U.S. military to  a hammer is an unsophisticated description of the most complex, versatile, and useful force for peace the world has yet seen.  Real solutions and efforts to counter ISIS and Boko Haram will be ugly and require an undesirable level of resolve and commitment.  The president’s misconception of his own options are compounded by a misconception of who Boko Haram and ISIS are as enemies.  Though the White House now bullet points terrorist organization designations of Boko Haram on the list of things it has done, it resisted doing so until John Kerry took over at State Department.  A clear early opportunity to recognize a potential long term ideological threat was lost.  Instead, the state department attributed Boko Haram’s rise to poverty and lack of resources.  Similarly likening ISIS to a Junior Varsity team, the effort to down play the threat of Islamic groups with territorial ambition has been the administration’s supplement for challenging them early on.

The similarities between Boko Haram and ISIS are glaring for a reason and increasingly observed in detail.  There is the claim of a Sunni Islamic caliphate, territorial ambition, highly organized systems of kidnapping and sexual slavery, and organized court systems used to rule captive towns and villages under Shariah law.  There is also increasing recognition of each others legitimacy. Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau has expressed support for ISIS, incorporated its logo and anthem, and has flattered Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi with mimicry.  Boko Haram’s nods to ISIS are not simply surprising similarities discovered by analysts or trite displays of mutual admiration.  Furthermore, whether these acts symbolize real allegiance or recognition is secondary.  These are clear symptoms of camaraderie and brotherhood.  Official declarations of affiliation between Sunni groups are in most ways insignificant to their success, growth or motivation.  Their ideology unites them and animates them both.  More simply put, Boko Haram and ISIS are similar because they are the same set of ideas manifest on different continents in different cultures.

Boko Haram in Nigeria is one front of a larger war. ISIS is another.  Boko Haram presents challenges of diplomacy and state-craft that will increase in threat level the longer left unchecked which will rival that of ISIS.  It is in Nigeria, however that U.S. assertiveness can still galvanize regional resolve in way that has been lost in the Middle East.  Hopefully that opportunity will remain for the possibility of the next U.S. administration to recognize it.

Nigeria Teeters on the Brink: 8 Terrifying Trends

bokoPJ Media, By Patrick Poole, December 18, 2014:

For much of its five-year long insurgency in Nigeria costing thousands of lives, Boko Haram enjoyed no sanction by the U.S. government. That changed just over a year ago when they were finally designated a terrorist organization by the State Department.

That notwithstanding, Boko Haram continues to expand its terror campaign across the north of the country, now controlling an area the size of Maryland.

On the other side of the conflict is the hapless administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, which so far has been unable to mount any substantive opposition to Boko Haram’s advance. With presidential elections looming in February and with Jonathan most likely running for reelection, there appears to be no effective political counterweight that can put Nigeria on a course to mount a counter-offensive against Boko Haram.

The strategic stakes involved for the U.S. are extraordinary, but you would never be able to gauge that from the absence of any alarm from the Obama administration or from either side of the aisle in Congress. Not only does Nigeria have the continent’s largest population at 173 million and the largest economy in Africa, it also is the10th largest oil producer in the world.

With a failed Libyan state (thanks in no small part to the Obama administration), Egypt — the world’s largest Arab country — fighting its own counterinsurgency in the Sinai, and Islamist insurgencies inflamed from Nigeria to Kenya, the loss of Nigeria to jihadists could be the tipping point to lose the whole of Africa.

With those factors in mind, here are eight disturbing trends that warrant immediate attention for Nigeria’s fight against Boko Haram.

1) Religious cleansing of Christians is escalating: It’s remarkable that not even two years ago senior State Department officials were denying before Congress that there was any religious dimension to Boko Haram’s reign of terror.

Nigerian churches, which should be open and inviting, are now having to install crash barriers and metal detectors. And yet within just the past few months, more than 1,000 churches have been ransacked and burned, and hundreds of thousands of Christians are being driven from their homes.

For instance, in one October offensive in just two northeastern states, Boko Haram reportedly burned down 185 churches and forced 190,000 to flee. Last month they attacked Mubi, the second largest city in Adamawa state, killing hundreds and destroying as they went. Without the slightest hint of hypocrisy, Boko Haram renamed the city “Madinatul Islam,” meaning, “city of Islam and peace.”

2) Massive population displacement: According to a UN press release, the attack on Mubi displaced 13,000 Nigerians, who were forced to flee to neighboring Cameroon, which is struggling to accommodate nearly 50,000 Nigerian refugees and another 250,000 from the Central African Republic with extremely scarce resources. Another 100,000 refugees have fled to Niger, with 30,000 arriving just in the past two months. There’s no guarantee of safety in taking refuge in neighboring countries, as Boko Haram has staged cross-border attacks. Inside Nigeria, it was reported that 400,000 refugees are in the Yolo area, severely taxing the city’s resources. Overall, 1.5 million Nigerians have been displaced by the violence, with 650,000 in the northeast alone.

3) Disease and famine loom: The massive displacement has strained refugee centers past the breaking point. Conditions in the camps are universally reported to be unsanitary and breeding grounds for cholera and measles. Because resources are stretched so thin, most refugees are left to fend for themselves for shelter, food, and water. As winter begins to set in, observers on the ground I have spoken to in the past few weeks warn of possible mass starvation in the months ahead.

Food prices are high and most refugees left their homes with nothing and have no reliable income. Because of the security situation, few relief agencies have a permanent operating presence in the most heavily affected areas. UN and private relief agencies are requesting additional funds, and yet the Strategic Response Plan for Nigeria launched in February was just 14 percent funded by mid-November.

4) Power grab by Muslim militias: In recent weeks there have been efforts by Islamic authorities and the emirs to stand up Muslim militias in the north, ostensibly to fight Boko Haram. But there’s no guarantee that these militias will always be opposed to Boko Haram, particularly if they continue to advance against government forces (this has been true for rebel groups in Syria that were initially opposed to ISIS and other hardline jihadist groups, but ended up allying with or defecting to these same groups).

And it should be noted that Boko Haram has not been the only actor targeting Christians in the north. Muslim militias have been attacking Christian areas for years. Observers on the ground express concern that the real-world effect of these militias will be to create a parallel system to the Nigerian government and eventually grab power in the north. Many Muslims in the north would love to break away from the political influence and governmental control of the Nigerian government, where they are forced to share power with the Christian majority. Thus, many of these calls for Muslim militias by Islamic authorities are couched in openly anti-government rhetoric.

5) Targeting of children: When nearly 300 school girls were abducted from Chibok in April, it grabbed the world’s attention. Some were able to flee, but reportedly 219 remain captive. Last month, Boko Haram chief Abubakar Shekau said that the girls had converted to Islam and had been married off. When Boko Harm stormed the town of Lassa on December 3, they carried away 20 more girls.

But while girls are targeted for abduction, boys are targeted for killing. Just last month, dozens of young men were killed when a suicide bomber dressed as a student bombed a morning assembly. This targeting of school-age boys is a pattern for Boko Haram, such as when they attacked a boarding school in Yobe state back in February where boys were shot, had their throats slit, or were burned alive when their dorms were set on fire.

6) Women suicide bombers: Last Wednesday, two young girls in hijabs conducted a dual suicide bombing in a high-traffic textile market in Kano city, the largest city in the north. Another 13-year-old girl was found wearing an explosive vest just hours later. Boko Haram is using young female suicide bombers at an increasing and disturbing rate, thoughthis tactic is not isolated to their operations in Nigeria and has been endorsed elsewhere by preeminent Islamic scholars like Yusuf al-Qaradawi. The use of female suicide bombers requires security forces to target women as well as men, and then the terror group is able to use the “abuse” of women being searched as a propaganda ploy. What is especially troubling is a VICE News report last week that indicated that Boko Haram has dispatched 50 female suicide bombers in the hopes of inflicting 100,000 casualties.

7) Jihadist jail breaks: ISIS has used jail breaks to effective use in Iraq, busting out al-Qaeda operatives of the infamousAbu Ghraib prison last year and Mosul and Tikrit earlier this year. Those released have helped swell the terror group’s ranks. So too with Boko Haram, which staged a jail break earlier this month that released 300 prisoners, and one on Sunday that freed another 200. The BBC reported in November that Boko Haram jail breaks had at that time freed 2,251 prisoners, and that they had launched an attack on a French cement plant and recovered a large cache of dynamite that could be used for future jail breaks. With thousands of Boko Haram operatives and supporters presently in jails, along with hardened criminals conditioned to violence, targeting more jails will continue to swell their ranks.

8) Government impotence: One of the primary factors emboldening these power grabs has been the ineffectiveness of the Nigerian military to roll back Boko Haram’s gains. Relatively few small scale victories by government forces are overshadowed by continuing gains by Boko Haram. To mask the problem, the Nigerian government has issued a media blackout in many of these areas and imposed a moratorium on foreign media visas. While President Jonathan’s administration has come under fire for not adequately protecting its own people, it has seemed to be more concerned about its public relations in Washington, D.C. than in regaining the public trust of its own citizens.

A study published this week by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization found that Boko Haram was responsible for 801 deaths last month alone, with more people killed by terror attacks in Nigeria than in Syria or Afghanistan.

NBC News noted last week that Boko Haram’s violence is now on par with ISIS in Iraq, which is why in 2013 Nigeria climbed to fourth in the Global Terrorism Index, up from seventh in 2012 and twelfth in 2011. According to the Council on Foreign Relations tracker, the violence in Nigeria from May 2011 (when President Jonathan came into office) to November 2014 has claimed more than 26,000 lives. Now there are reports that Nigerian special forces have uncovered plans by Boko Haram to expand their attacks by targeting 25 communities in five different states.

But you would never know how desperate the situation is in Nigeria in light of the absence of any urgency or alarm from the Obama administration or from Congress.

It’s worth repeating: Congress had to drag a reluctant Clinton State Department kicking and screaming to get Boko Haram designated in November 2013. Members of Congress also discovered earlier this year that the Clinton State Department intentionally lied and downplayed the threat from Boko Haram, and worked to kill bills in both the House and the Senate calling for their designation in 2012.

At the same time, 21 American academics sent a letter to Hillary Clinton strongly arguing against Boko Haram’s designation in response to the Department of Justice’s National Security Division urging the State Department to do so.

But the November 2013 designation of Boko Haram and the offensives by ISIS in Syria and Iraq have allowed Congress to get distracted as well.

There are considerable national security and other strategic interests for the United States in Nigeria. But as the country teeters on the brink in the face of Boko Haram advances, Washington, D.C. is asleep at the wheel. The risks of inattention and inaction in Nigeria threaten to jeopardize the whole of Africa.

The Global Jihad

3682902893By Olivier Guitta:

“Islamic extremism is a Middle East problem but it is quickly becoming the world’s problem too.  It is a transnational challenge, the most destabilizing and dangerous global force since fascism. For certain, the United States and the West have a big interest in this battle.  Now is the time to act.

Any action must begin with a clear plan for direct intervention against ISIS but must address the other dangerous extremist groups in the region.  It is also critical to tackle the support networks, the entire militant ideological and financial complex that is the lifeblood of extremism.”

Who uttered these words? President Obama, PM Cameron or President Hollande? Actually, none of them; it was the UAE Ambassador to the U.S., Yousef Al Otaiba, speaking in September 2014.

From 2001 and a time when Al-Qaeda (AQ) was perceived as our main enemy, the jihadist movement has grown in strength and in numbers. The violent jihad groups we now face include the Islamic State, Boko Haram, al Shabaab, Ansar al Sharia, al Murabitun, Ansar al Dine and AQ itself, which has expanded significantly with franchises in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), East Asia, and now the new Indian franchise as well.

Nor is the threat limited to Sunni groups but includes Shia terror outfits such as Hezbollah that, under Iranian sponsorship, are still very much active on an international scale and will stop at nothing to strike terror against the West. Geographically, the threat has grown from an Afghanistan-centered one to one that spans the globe, with a jihadist presence on nearly every continent.

The Global Jihad should be viewed from two different, but related perspectives: first, the most obvious is the doctrinally-mandated conquest of physical territory in all theaters of war; second, and just as important, is the conquest of our societies from within by way of the civilizational jihad challenges that we face. Therefore, it’s not enough to merely look at terrorist groups, because the role of intellectuals, propaganda operatives, and recruiters is actually at the root of the problem. Jihad groups should be viewed and approached through that prism.

Fighting against the global jihad cannot be effective if focused only on the “armies” but must also confront the “brains” behind them: let’s not forget that inciting terrorism has a multiplying effect.

The Islamic State

Surging to power across national borders in 2014, the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has become a household name and supplanted al-Qaeda (AQ) as the vanguard of the global jihadist movement. ISIS announced in June 2014 the establishment of a new Caliphate in Syria and Iraq and changed its name to the “Islamic State (IS)” to signify its global ambitions, claim the allegiance of Muslims everywhere, and emphasize its non-recognition of Western-drawn political boundaries. It also seeks allegiance from jihadist group worldwide and rapidly is winning support from Muslim followers and recruits from over 80 countries around the world.

IS victories in Syria and its spectacular advances in Iraq from Mosul to the fringes of Baghdad, and even advancing to the Saudi and Jordanian borders, have made IS the new “kid on the block”. In mid-September 2014, its Chechen members threatened to march on Amman, Jordan’s capital, while Saudi’s military forces are on high alert for advances toward Mecca and Medina.

By calling itself the Islamic State with no mention of countries, IS leader al-Baghdadi is seeking to bring to his fold all groups that view al-Zawahiri’s brand as passé and see al-Baghdadi as the true inheritor of Osama Bin Laden’s global vision. This is why in the past months, thousands of jihadists around the world announced they were switching allegiances to the Islamic State. The Islamic State’s fighters are young, fluent on social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram, and, unlike al-Qaeda, they are actually setting up the Caliphate and governing captured territory.

Read more at Center for Security Policy

Olivier Guitta is a security and geopolitical risk consultant to corporations and governments. He tweets@OlivierGuitta.