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The arrest of 24 alleged al Qaeda activists in Morocco has cast a rare spotlight on Islamic extremism in north-west Africa, a phenomenon that is troubling both the region’s governments and western intelligence agencies.
Just reading the title, I jumped off my chair. I'm sincerely outraged by this post. And I should explain this in depth.
First, Al Qaeda does not refer to anything at all. There is no such a thing as an international Al Qaeda organisation. That is a pure political and mediatic construction. When a problem is a bit too subtle, it is quite a usual thing to make it simple, to an extent that would render it accessible to the majority. Doing so, truth does not become the major concern. Under the Bush administration, one of the ways of justifying military actions, was to bring fear (most governments have done that in the past: fear of the jews, the communists, the anarchists, the royalists, the republicans, the different, the capitalists, and so on...). This fear was based on potential danger, as regard to Irak, and on actual terrorist activities, as regard to Afghanistan. Wehther these were true allegations is not the point here. What counts, is the effect of fear on the population: peopole are ready to pay their security at the cost of their liberties. It worked in the past, it works in the present. Al Qaeda, in that sense, becomes a very convenient device or artefact, for it encompasses every single terrorist activity in the world, induced by some form of islamic justification (i don't want to make this post too long, but it is interesting to see how, after the 9/11, every fight for autonomy in the world has become a terrorist activity: kurdish in turkey, basques in france and spain, tchetchenes in russia, opponents in Iran, and so on and so on. In many cases, their were not considered as such before the 9/11).
Second, a self-declared islamic fighter in Afghanistan and in mauritania will not be comparable in any kind of way. They do not have the same language, not the same culture, not the same concerns, not even the same Islam - and I mean that. And there is absolutely no reason why people pretending fighting for Islam in Algeria and Marocco would fight the same interests. The countries do not have the same history, do not give the same public place to religion, etc. Islam is not as homogeneous as we think, and their pseudo-fighters are not in any way linked in a way we are told by media.
Finally, having that kind of post is just a reinforcement of amalgams, fears and, wost of all, ignorance. Ask many muslim what they think about islamic terrorists, they'll answer that there is no such a thing. A terrorist does not follow islam, and he should not be assiociated with it.
I am quite astonished to have came across such a post on the hubb, otherwise a very well articulated and subtle forum, source of knowledge for travelers. I thought travelers, thanks to their traveling experience, had gain a sense of discernment, or a critical mind. Spreading knowledge is more than respectable, spreading ignorance claiming it is knowledge is a far too dangerous thing to be left unnoticed.
thanks for spelling out your thoughts.
I think you might have missed the complete title of the thread - it refers to Al Qaeda in the Maghreb - short for Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. This name was coined by the leaders of AQIM in January 2007.
Unfortunately for desert travellers, AQIM are indeed very real and they pose the greatest threat to travel in the Sahara at the moment, largely through a series on kidnappings. They release all their correspondence about the kidnappings under the banner of AQIM.
Recently there has been a Sahara-wide initiative to counter the groupings of AQIM who have settled down in NE Mali. Much of this thread is given over to news about which way this is going. This turns out to be important because it may mean that travellers suddenly find themselves amidst a war zone.
Some of the postings are fairly neutral - or are meant to be (see mine for example). The thread was started by Ulrich who spent many months at the hands of the insurgents when he was kidnapped in the Sahara. So I think Ulirch might argue that these guys are real.
I do not wish this thread to degenerate into ideological argument. The purpose of STF is largely to be kept up to date on issues as they relate to the Sahara. News of insurgencies and counter insurgency is therefore highly relevent to the region. STF has a good track record in being ahead of many official government travel warnings by virtue of the community that contributes here and their dilligence in spotting issues and, of course, most valuably, in reporting events as they appear on the ground. Please let's keep in that way.
[quote=Richard Washington;286959 ] The purpose of STF is largely to be kept up to date on issues as they relate to the Sahara. News of insurgencies and counter insurgency is therefore highly relevent to the region. [quote]
Agreed. All posts in this thread are relavant to keep Sahara travellers aware of the current situation.
Whether you believe that AQIM are a product of the Zionists, whether they're an artificial creation by the Americans to allow them to keep meddling in global affairs, or just a bunch of criminals controlling drug and smuggling routes through the Sahara..............these thoughts are irrelevant to this particular thread.
What is relevant to this topic is to help keep us updated on what the current situation in the Sahara is. Clearly there is a threat to travellers, highlighted by the kidnapping of foreign nationals.
It is my last post on this thread, because I do not want it to loose its informative value.
But I have to underline the fact that:
1- There is no ontological neither ideological reality in "al qaeda"
2- There are plenty of threads reagarding Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran (balouchistan) that fulfill the same purpose of this thread, ie informing travelers about the situation. None of them mentions Al Qaeda.
3- "Most sources of our mistakes come from language", said Montaigne. Using the expression "Al Qaeda" is giving the world an ideological interpretation, which neither helps travelers nor critical thinking.
Nowhere I'm talking about americans, zionist or other interpretations. I just think that ethics, and language ethics, as well as intellectual honesty, do not have to stop in front of internet's doors.
The discourse on certain threads of STF in fact became ideological a looong time ago. At least since the first americanos invaded hotel Tizimizi in Gao, Mali in november 2003 and started spreading Al Qaida fiction across Sahara. It si basically a racist discourse. Now go ahead, let the Fox sing.
RABAT — Anti-terrorist investigators in Morocco believe a French citizen was the brains behind an Al-Qaeda linked cell they smashed this month, a judicial source said Wednesday.
Investigators believe Moroccan-born Ahmed Sahnouni "is suspected of leading this cell from France," the source said, but gave no more details.
Police are searching for the man, following the arrest of 24 members of what the interior ministry on Monday described as a "terrorist network linked to Al-Qaeda" who were preparing to attack Moroccan interests.
Like it or not, they chose the moniker AQIM, noone else did it for them.
What I see on the forum is mostly an absence of ideologically tinted debate. An exception is when someone says they can't be AQ since AQ doesn't exist.
I see them as common criminals, using the AQ banner as a disguise to somehow justify their dirty deeds, and also a tool for recruiting disenchanted young men.
A few of them may be hardcore islamists.
Being opportunistic bandits, they left Algeria for Mali since there was a void where they could roam freely (parallell to LRA in Uganda, who have been moving around Congo, CAR and now Darfur, wherever government control is weak. Their label is "christian" - big deal).
Like in Asia, the victims of islamism are mostly muslims, and a few unlucky westerners. For Aqim those few are important as a major source of income.
If as estimated there are only 470 members of AQIM in the desert, and there is widespread public resistence to them, one would think that 75,000 soldiers should be able to put enough pressure on them that they move elsewhere. If politics doesn't get in the way.
From a touareg perspective (Ag Khelfa). Comment l’Algérie a exporté sa « sale guerre » au Mali : Algérie-Maroc
How Algeria exported their dirty war to Mali.
Makes a clear distinction between touaregs and berabiche support for Aqim. For him, Berabiche-Moors-Sahrawi are the same people - same language, same culture. The country of Moors, from Timbuktu to the Atlantic.
Tells the story how mediation became too lucrative a business after 2003 to pass upon, both for mediators like colonel Lemana and their contacts in Bamako. For Lemana it ended badly
This "network" has taken advantage of this new situation to make contact with AQIM now to serve as facilitators for the release of hostages, a service become juicy. This was done through Colonel Lemana but the operation goes sour: Colonel Lemana, who also discovered the presence of the Algerian secret service elements within AQIM, wanted to take advantage of both sides, this ended with his assassination in the city of Timbuktu by elements believed to belong to AQIM.
The rest, you know, the sad thing is that the Central Sahara is now associated with terrorism, its people too, so that they, helpless observer, are the real victims of a game that exceeds beyond their imagination.
December 8, 2009.
These units are organized specifically to fight AQIM. These new fighting units, called “modules,” are composed of around 200 men, commanded by a captains or a majors. In turn, every three modules (600-700 men) are placed under the command of a Lieutenant-Colonel or Colonel. Each module is made of three squads: 1 fighting squad, 1 logistics squad, 1 administrative squad. The goal is to set up highly mobile advanced fighting outposts to conduct search and destroy operations against terrorists and smugglers. Some of them have been trained by France or the United States, but their combat readiness remains questionable (among Mauritanians); Mauritanian-trained elite Army’s two BCP (Bataillon de Commandos Paratuchistes) units are based further south in Atar. These units undergo grueling preparation so rough some men have died in training. These are perhaps the most combat-ready of the lot. Elite French-trained anti-terrorism Gendarmerie units are part of the new counter-terrorism command and primarily operate in an urban areas and are not designed for desert combat
edit: my browser refuses to open the infected maliweb (over 50 malware warnings) but malijet works
If you use Google Chrome, translation comes automatically if you want it. Just a tip.
It would be interesting if Ulrich would participate in discussion and share his knowledge
Interesting set of links, particularly about the 4 groups and the whole Berabiche-Moor-Saharawi [Reguibat] thing which rarely gets fully appreciated. In a blue cheche they can all appear the same to the clueless (see the colour 'Tuareg' pic in the current Morocco LP).
So the Tuareg guy suggests the ethnic Arabs are thick as thieves (as you'd expect, but not without justification given their legitimate business dominance in the area), while TMND scoffs at the idea.
Ag K goes quite far out on a limb with GSPC/Alg govt links. Alg support Polisario in Tindouf, sure, but AFAIK only to poke the eye of the Moroccans over the WS war they lost. That Polisario are involved in traffic in the area is likely, though, but if Alg is up to half of what Ag K suggests then it's not US meddling we have to worry about and they are giving Ghadaffi a run for his money.
I have to say I found TMND's analysis a little 'virtual', like a lot of these political blogs on a Sahel based out of DC or wherever. It got a bit wobbly for me describing the 'hellish' desert of the Tiris. Come July it's all hellish.
Still, remind me to steer clear of El Vourghane next time I'm out there.
Washington / Morocco Board News Service - Is Algeria’s approach to counter terrorism hampering the American efforts to contain and eradicate terrorism in the North and West Africa? Few recent developments give the impression that the United States is not content with the Algerian government’s recent plans” to control” the security situation in the Sahara and Sahel regions. The Algerian military flawed plans to secure the Sahel region has more to do with portraying an image of Algeria as the regional power house in North West Africa than setting up an effective military and political entity capable of countering an ever menacing enemy that continues to strike at whim.
In fact, the politically motivated decision to exclude Morocco, the other major power house in the region, from last month meeting held in Algeria to discuss the deteriorating security situation in the Sahel has made the Algerian plans mute and infective. Case in point: the week following the Algiers meeting, Mauritanian security forces arrested a member of the Polisario front for the kidnapping of Spanish aid workers highlighting the short sighted Algerian approach to securing the region and the unavoidable role Morocco plays in the war against terrorism in North West Africa. European and American diplomats were left scratching their heads trying to understand Algiers political and strategic logic behind the exclusion of Rabat.
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