Lebanese Canadian Bank to Pay $102 Million in Hizballah Laundering Case

money-launderingby Abha Shankar:

 

Did the US have enough indicators and warnings for Algeria?

arc-of-instability1

 

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In the intelligence world, indicators and warnings are essential. They are key pieces of data expressing enough insight allowing an analyst to determine threats, proposed threat levels, and assist in forecasting. With the ongoing hostage situation still unfolding in Algeria (still ongoing as this is being written), it’s critical to question whether the US or our Western allies had enough indicators and warnings to caution citizens living and or working in Algeria.

In May, Homeland Security Today published a piece titled West Africa: Al Qaeda’s New Home. It revealed how Al Qaeda shifted its base from Afghanistan and Pakistan into West Africa—specifically Mali. There was enough information found within to allow any open source intelligence analyst to obtain what is known as “chatter.” That chatter could be observed as the first warning.

Then, in October, Homeland Security Today released another article title The Quint-Border Region: The World’s Most Under-Reported Terror Hot Spot. Within it, five key nations were identified in western Africa demonstrating unprecedented amounts of activities which have unfolded over the years via Al Qaeda linked terrorist groups. These incidents were sheer warnings.

The first week of December could arguably be construed as one of the biggest indicators demonstrating how austere the region has truly become. Online media outlet Magharebia divulged in an article title Belmokhtar breaksaway from AQIM. Anyone who ever worked intelligence knows when key leaders break away from a large terror group, they later form their own. And that’s exactly what Mokhtar Belmokhtar did.

Belmokhtar broke away from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Magrheb and formed his own Islamist group called Al Muwaki un bi Al-Dima (Signatories of Blood). A video tape of the one eyed Islamist was created and delivered to at least one international media outlet explaining his intent.

Belmokhtar is no small fish in the Islamic terror world. He is a highly skilled and trained fighter who quickly moved up the ranks in Al Qaeda after fulfilling his mission in Afghanistan back in 1991. He eventually returned to Algeria where he was born and later assisted in a horrifically violent coup of Mali’s government.

Only a few weeks after Magharebia posted their news about Belmokhtar’s split from AQIM, the Jamestown Foundation released a very well written report on the situation in West Africa, specifically revealing Belmokhtar’s future endeavors.

With this information, why did the United States State Department’s Office of Securityand Cooperation release just two travel warnings for Algeria in 2012? Worse, why were they created in May and September having nothing more recent knowing the entire West African region was imploding?

Yes, these two travel warnings could have also sparked interest for an intelligence analyst to create something more suitable for the Western free world, specifically Americans living and working in the region.

The truth is, America and our western allies knew how volatile the entire west African region had become. Yet for some reason, similar to Benghazi, they sat on the back of their heels proving to be inept protectors of their citizens.

Now, as the tragedy in Algeria continues to unfold, reports have revealed at least 35 hostages and 15 terrorists were killed in Algerian military led airstrikes. This reporting remains extremely vague and maintains limited details.  As mentioned last night on Canadian Television News, this tragedy would end in bloodshed.

Kerry Patton, a combat disabled Veteran is author of Contracted: America’s Secret Warriors.

France in Mali fights the unfinished Libyan War

Trouble in store: French troops arrive at Bamako's airport Photo: AP

Trouble in store: French troops arrive at Bamako’s airport Photo: AP

Debka:

On January 11, a few hundred French troops and a handful of fighter jets and gunships launched a campaign against Islamist terrorists in Mali, a West African desert vastness larger than Texas and California combined. This former French colony appealed to Paris for aid to throw back a mixed al Qaeda-rebel advance on the capital, Bamako. But France, no more than the US, had learned from the Afghanistan War that Al Qaeda cannot be beaten by aerial warfare – certainly not when the jiahdists are highly trained in special forces tactics and backed by highly mobile, well-armed local militias, armed with advanced anti-aircraft weapons and knowledgeable about conditions in the forbidding Sahara.

Within 48 hours, this modest “crusader” intervention had united a host of pro-al Qaeda offshoots and allies, some of them castoffs from the army of Libya’s deposed Muammar Qaddafi. They are led by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb – AQIM; the West African jihadist MUJAO; and the Somali al-Shabaab which is linked to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula – AQAP. Together, they are threatening to execute one by one the 10 or eleven French hostages they are holding as part of their revenge on France. The French declared their mission to be to dislodge the Islamists from an area larger than Afghanistan in the north, including the principal towns of Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal. Without several thousand special forces’ troops on the ground, this is just a pipedream. The disaffected Touareg tribes are supporting al Qaeda against the French as part of their drive for independence. Their added value is the training in special forces’ tactics some 1,500 Touareg fighting men and their three officers received from the US.  The US originally reserved them as the main spearhead of a Western Saharan multi-tribe campaign to eradicate al Qaeda in North and West Africa. Instead, the Sahel tribesmen followed the Touareg in absconding to Mali with top-quality weapons for desert warfare and hundreds of vehicles from US and ex-Libyan military arsenals.

This major setback for US administration plans and counter-terror strategy in Africa tied in with Al Qaeda’s assassination of US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three of his staff in Benghazi last September. Because the United States held back from direct US military action in both cases, Qaeda has been allowed to go from strength to strength and draw into its fold recruits from Mali’s neighbors. They are tightening their grip on northern Mali and have imposed a brutal version of Islam on its inhabitants, putting hundreds to flight.

France stepped in when al Qaeda drove south to extend its rule to all parts of Mali and pose a terrorist threat to Europe.

Foreign jihadists continue to pour into Mali

Ansar Dine fighters fly al Qaeda’s banner in Northern Mali in late April 2012. (Source: PanAfrican News Wire)

By Bill Roggio:

Both Malian security officials and Ansar Dine’s spokesman have confirmed that  foreign fighters are continuing to travel to northern Mali, where al  Qaeda-linked jihadists from the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa  (MUJOA), Ansar Dine, and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb have been in control  since February. From Magharebia (which has done an excellent job of covering the  conflict in Mali):

Foreign fighters have begun arriving in Mali, but these are not the  long-awaited African military forces come to liberate the country from al-Qaeda  in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the MUJAO and Ansar al-Din.”Hundreds of jihadists, mostly Sudanese and Sahrawis [Africans from Western  Sahara], have arrived as reinforcements to face an offensive by Malian forces  and their allies,” AFP quoted a Malian security source as saying on Tuesday  (October 22nd).

“They are armed and explained that they had come to help their Muslim  brothers against the infidels,” a Timbuktu resident said.

Sanad Ould Bouamama, official spokesperson for Ansar al-Din, says, “The  arrival of hundreds of young mujahideen from different areas across the Islamic  world to support us in our war against the infidels and crusaders is not strange  or surprising.”

“The same thing happened in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Chechnya, Somalia and  Iraq,” the Ansar al-Din official tells Magharebia.

Ould Bouamama adds, “The war that the world is planning to wage against us is  a war against Islam and all that is related to Islam. Its goal is to combat  God’s Sharia, and therefore, all mujahideen have to stand by our  side.”

 

One month ago, AFP reported that foreign jihadists from West African  countries such as Togo, Benin, Niger, Nigeria, Guinea, Senegal, and the Ivory  Coast, as well as Egyptians, Algerians, and Pakistanis, have been filling out  the ranks of the three main jihadist groups in Mali. Additionally, at least two  training camps have been established in Gao, the largest city in northern Mali  [see Threat Matrix report, West  African jihadists flock to northern Mali].

Meanwhile, the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union, the  Economic Community of West African States, and the US are still trying to figure  out how do deal with the deteriorating security situation in northern Mali. All  indications are that no military action will occur until  sometime in 2013. And the African Union has  indicated that it “will leave the door of dialogue open to those Malian  rebel groups willing to negotiate.”

Once the international community decides to take action, the jihadists in  northern Mali don’t stand a chance in holding territory in the long run (see  Somalia and Yemen for recent examples of jihadist group’s abilities to stand up  to organized armies over time, but also note that al Qaeda in the Arabian  Peninsula and Shabaab still control territory in rural areas of Yemen and  Somalia respectively and are still able to conduct organized attacks). But a  significant threat that is being ignored is that the delay in taking actions in  northern Mail has given the jihadists an opportunity to indoctrinate, train, and  organize recruits from the West African nations, and then send them home to  establish networks there.

Read more: Long War Journal