Thursday, 19 November 2015

Target Africa

As the global media spotlight stayed on the Da'ish attacks on Paris and the aftermath, a suicide bomber killed more than 80 people in a vegetable market in Yola, Nigeria, attracting little attention. In fact, there was more fuss about the demand from Africans for Facebook to extend its safety service – which allows friends and families in areas hit by terrorist attacks to check up on each other – to Africa. Ever image-conscious, Facebook quickly made the service cover Kenya and Nigeria.

This points to a bigger truth: that Africa is disproportionately targeted by Islamist and other terrorist attacks. Researcher Olivier Roy of the European University in Florence makes the point that the attacks on Paris are a sign of Da'ish's strategic limits in the Middle East, bounded as it is by Kurdish forces in the north, Iraqi Shiites in the west, and President Bashar al Assad's forces in the east. Da'ish will step up its international recruitment and efforts on spectacular international terrorist attacks as it did on 13 November, Roy says.

What Roy omits to point out is that Da'ish has already opened a second front: in Libya, which has become an important base for it. Alarmingly, the military stalemate between Libya's secularist forces and an Islamist coalition, with which Da'ish cooperates, continues to rip apart the country and its people. More alarmingly still, Da'ish has started a push in southern Libya to corral the Islamist and jihadist factions there to reinforce their attacks on Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

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