Tunisia, Islamic Jihad and Hostage Crisis: Algeria, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Syria and the Gulf

Tunisia, Islamic Jihad and Hostage Crisis: Algeria, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Syria and the Gulf

Murad Makhmudov and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times


The real factors behind the Islamist terrorist attack in Algeria remains open to major interpretation but clearly the destabilization of Iraq, Libya, Mali and Syria is certainly helping the terrorist cause. Tunisia is also a very fraught nation whereby Salafi funding and indoctrination is penetrating this nation because of the deeds of individuals and organizations in the Gulf. Therefore, when it was announced that Tunisians formed the highest number of nationals involved in the terrorist attack in Algeria, then this fact wasn’t so surprising.

Similarly, the fact that the terrorist attack in Algeria took place so close to the border with Libya was also not surprising because clearly the aftermath of the fall of Gaddafi is one of a failed state. Throughout Libya you have various different militias and power brokers. Within this chaos the Salafi Islamist message and call for jihad isn’t so difficult to spread given increasing poverty, growing religious indoctrination and no clear path ahead for the majority of Libyans. The same can be equally said for many young Tunisians because the recent political changes haven’t brought certainty but instead the reality is new vacuums which are being filled by Islamist forces emanating from the Gulf.

Andrew McGregor, The Jamestown Foundation, comments about the recent terrorist attack in Algeria that “A terrorist attack of this type was somewhat unexpected, at least based on previous experience. Even at the height of clashes between Algeria’s Islamist militants and government forces in the 1990s, the Islamists never attempted to penetrate a heavy security cordon placed around Algeria’s vital oil and gas infrastructure in the southern desert region. Fighting from well-concealed bases in the heavily-wooded Kabylie Mountains of northern Algeria was always preferable to mounting operations in difficult desert terrain where no cover was available from air surveillance or attack. In this sense, it seems that proximity to Libya may have been the deciding factor in the selection of In Aménas as a target. Libya is still struggling to consolidate control of its desert interior and the distance from the Libyan border to In Aménas could be easily covered at night, allowing the attackers to emerge undetected with the rising of the sun. The nearby Algerian military camp entrusted with protecting the gas installation did not go into action until the terrorists has already seized the facility.”

If, and it appears most likely, that a Libya connection is behind this terrorist attack given the mass instability of this nation, then people should be pointing the finger at America, France, the United Kingdom and nations in the Gulf which supported the destabilization of Libya. After all, it is abundantly clear that the overthrow of Gaddafi in Libya opened up many power vacuums within this nation and created new dangers for regional nations like Algeria and Mali. The closeness of Aménas to the border of Libya would indicate that this nation was perfect cover because of the destabilization of this nation. Therefore, just like meddling in Afghanistan and Iraq opened up many Islamist terrorist cans of worms, then the same equally applies to Libya and the ongoing destabilization of Syria.

Xinhua, Chinese news media, comments that “The recent Algerian hostage crisis, with nearly 40 militants of seven nationalities ruthlessly hijacking more than 800 people, shocked the world. Notably, 11 Tunisians were among the abductors, the largest ratio in the group.”

“The presence of so many Tunisians among the ranks of assailants is not quite astonishing, observers said, as many Tunisian young men have joined Jihadist groups such as Jibhat Nusra and have been fighting against the Syrian regime.”

“What’s more, hundreds of Tunisians (no precise numbers are available) have also joined the ranks of Ansar El Shaaria in northern Mali where France, in collaboration with Mali’s army, launched a major ground and air operation to repel Islamic militants from Mali, Tunisian media reported.”

The Libya and Tunisia angle in the terrorist attack in Algeria highlights the failure of outside nations within the NATO alliance and throughout the Gulf. Yet for Islamist terrorist organizations and Islamist clerics which desire to spread militant Islam at the expense of indigenous Islam in Libya, Mali, Syria and Tunisia; then the role of outside nations were welcomed in the so-called “Arab Spring.” After all, these Islamist forces, whereby indoctrination is much more dangerous than terrorism in the long-term, knew full well that powerful vacuums, growing poverty, chaos, and other negative forces, would become the consequences of such change. However, with Afghanistan, Iraq and the self-induced chaos of Pakistan indicating this reality; then why did outside nations support the destabilization of Libya and the ongoing policy of supporting the forces of terrorism and sectarianism against Syria?

When Syria’s envoy to the United Nations (UN) began to provide the names of international jihadists fighting in Syria, it soon became clear that the Tunisia angle was potent. On one occasion when a list of 26 foreign Islamists was given it was stated that 19 of these terrorists had come from Tunisia. Since the early period when Syria began to collect lists of international jihadists it is clear that untold numbers have entered this nation in order to spread sectarianism, terrorism and hatred. Therefore, when it was stated that Tunisians accounted for the largest single ethnic group in the latest terrorist attack in Algeria – once more, the Tunisia angle emerged – alongside the reality that the destabilization of Libya created a breeding ground for Islamist terrorist forces.

In Syria the meddling of outside nations into the internal affairs of this nation is not only a disaster for the people of this nation but it is also creating new convulsions. For example, in Lebanon it is clear that Sunni Islamist forces are not only supporting terrorist groups in Syria but they are also intent on spreading their power base within Lebanon which is extremely multi-religious. Equally alarming, is that in neighboring Iraq the Islamist Al-Qaeda network and other terrorist factions are benefitting from the carnage in Syria. This in turn is threatening the already delicate situation in this country and the government of Erdogan in Turkey isn’t helping by his direct interference within the internal politics of Iraq. Jordan also must be looking into the mirror because Islamist political movements hope to change the political dynamics of this nation. Also, security forces in Jordan recently stopped a major terrorist plot and clearly the convulsions in Syria are causing a heavy shadow over the entire region – because a weak Syria is detrimental to all regional powers. Similarly, the destruction of the last major secular power within the Arabic speaking world doesn’t augur well for religious minorities, the role of women and pluralism within the Middle East and North Africa.

Gulf nations have long been involved in supporting the funding of ultra-conservative versions of Islam and involving themselves in internal conflicts. Recently, it is clear that Saudi Arabia and Qatar are hoping to expand their power mechanisms within the Levant and North Africa irrespective of the cost. After all, both nations have no qualms in supporting sectarianism and terrorism against secular Syria. Yet the crisis in Mali which became another blowback created by meddling nations after the demise of Gaddafi in Libya – means that one time allies may be about to clash over the future of this nation. This isn’t new, after all, in Iraq the majority of international jihadists who killed American and allied troops in this nation came from Saudi Arabia. Similarly, America and Pakistan which once had a shared interest in supporting Islamist terrorism in Afghanistan alongside other nations like Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom in the 1980s and 1990s – would also turn on themselves and clash within Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan near to the Afghan border.

Recent reports in France and highlighted in several think tanks are also raising the specter of a political clash between France and Qatar over Mali. The Council on Foreign Relations(CFR) reports that “In Mali, there is good reason to question whether Qatar is helping the government of that country and those coming to its aid–France and France’s allies (including the EU, United States, and the nations of West Africa)–or helping the Al Qaeda-linked rebels. As long ago as last summer this question was being asked in France, due to the Qatari presence in northern Mali and its aid to areas controlled by the Islamist groups; the mayor of the town of Gao was quoted as saying “the government of France knows who is supporting the terrorists. There is Qatar, for example….” The same article quoted a specialist at the Sciences-Po in Paris saying “In the same way that Qatar has provided special forces to lead opposition to Gaddafi, we think a number of element Qatari special forces are now in northern Mali to ensure the training of recruits who are in place there, especially Ansar Dine.” The French weekly Le Canard Enchaine wrote last June that ”Based on information collected by the [Directorate of  Military Intelligence], the Tuareg rebels of the MNLA, Ansar Eddine, AQIM, and Mujao were assisted with dollars from Qatar.”

Further down CFR comments that “Using this combination of favourable factors, the emirate can see a way to continue making its influence heavily felt in Africa, work also undertaken in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. In this respect, as in the case of Qatari engagement in Syria, two factors are in common. Firstly, after the success of the Libyan campaign, the emirate feels confident in being able to directly intervene abroad a power perspective. In addition, as in Syria, the presence of the emirate in Mali, if it is real, should be viewed in the context of a twofold competition: first with Saudi Arabia to control the Sunni Islamic world, but also to strengthen the power struggle of Sunni Muslims against Shiite Muslims (because the axis Iran – Syria – Hezbollah remains strong while the Shia in Iraq rises).”

The array of competing forces is a nightmare and like usual it is the ordinary citizens of Libya, Mali and Syria which are paying for outside meddling. Just like Islamist radicalism grew in power and strength in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. Meanwhile in Tunisia this country is getting a reputation for Islamist networks which are creating mayhem in Syria. More recently, Tunisians also accounted for the single largest national contingent within the terrorist attack which took place in Algeria. This is extremely worrying for the internal politics of Tunisia and of course many people are being murdered by Tunisian terrorists in several nations.

At the same time, the destabilization of Libya enabled new convulsions to erupt in Mali and clearly the Algerian terrorist attack took place near the border of Libya. It is known that Islamist terrorist camps exist in lawless Libya and attacks against Sufi shrines in this nation and Mali bare all the same hallmarks. Therefore, what happened to the so-called “Arab Spring” – or was it always “a mirage” from the start based on sinister forces in several Gulf nations alongside the connivance of America, France, Turkey and the United Kingdom?

Syria is blighted by daily terrorist attacks, sectarianism and a brutal economic blockade which is causing mayhem. Libya is now a failed state whereby terrorist and Salafists can plot actions against Algeria, Mali and Syria. At the same time Islamist indoctrination is behind the destruction of Sufi shrines in Libya and Mali and destroying other forms of indigenous Islam. Tunisia remains to be very delicate because poverty is a reality for many Tunisians and now this nation is becoming a hotbed for international jihadists – who have no qualms in killing Syrians and other nationalities in the name of jihad. Mali also is in crisis because of the convulsions of Libya, the role of outside nations in meddling negatively, the vacuum which enabled Islamists to enter the equation and other factors. Meanwhile, the nation of Algeria is now being drawn into the fray because of the destabilization of Libya and the growing influence of Islamist terrorist networks alongside the flow of Islamist indoctrination. At the heart of all this is the role of Gulf nations, organizations within the Gulf and extremely wealthy individuals which are supporting the Islamist cause. Similarly, the nations of America, France, Turkey and the United Kingdom have helped to destabilize several nations whereby Islamist terrorists have entered the vacuum and clearly the main victims of this are Iraq, Libya and Syria respectively – and Mali is now joining this equation.

The one single binding factor is that America, France, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Kingdom and other nations in the Gulf have created mass instability which stretches from Afghanistan and reaches all the way to Mali. Following in the path of outside meddling are the failed states of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Mali and others – and clearly Syria is struggling to survive the combined forces of NATO powers, nations in the Gulf and international terrorist networks. Likewise, parts of Pakistan must also come under the failed state scenario and now central forces in Egypt and Tunisia are extremely weak. At the same time, Nigeria is worried by the growing links of Islamist terrorist networks and Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia are all worried by events in Somalia, Sudan and the role of Gulf petrodollars which are spreading Islamist indoctrination. Of course, various factors will apply to each nation mentioned above but clearly the same players keep on creating new convulsions whereby failed states, terrorism and Islamist indoctrination becomes the usual trinity.






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