All three of Africa’s most prominent Muslim militant groups have made headlines in the last few days:
Nigeria’s Boko Haram are suspected in the recent assassination of a prison guard and a separate attack on “a police station, police barracks and a bank.” The first incident happened in Maiduguri, the second in a town nearby.
Does al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) have “sleeper cells” in West African countries beyond the Sahel? Some African security experts think so:
“In countries like Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, across the sub-region, we have Al-Qaeda sleeper cells,” said a statement issued after the meeting organised by the African Centre of Terrorism Research, an African Union body, in collaboration with Spain.
“A sleeper cell is a cell that is on standby,” explained a security official at the meeting, whose theme was “Connections between terrorism and organized transborder crime in West Africa.”
Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said these representatives of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) worked “in silence, recruiting and doing field work.”
AQIM’s links with drug smuggling have given it a foothold in certain West African countries, the African Centre of Terrorism Research continued. These statements raise the question, once again, of how cohesive AQIM is – could leaders in the Sahel or in Algeria command these sleeper cells to commit attacks, or is the organization looser than that?
Earlier this week, Mauritanian forces had a firefight with AQIM members.
Further east, the Ugandan government is concerned that Somalia’s al Shabab rebels might attack Uganda today.
In other Africa news:
- The Economist sees food prices as a destabilizing force in Africa.
- In Nigeria, “President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday said the post-election litigation this year had reduced by 80 percent when compared to the 2007 elections.”
- The political and security crisis continues in Abyei, Sudan. Thousands have already been displaced.
What news are you hearing?