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How Islamist Militancy Threatens Africa

With Islamist militant groups across the Sahara region still able to flex their muscles despite the French intervention in Mali, former UN diplomat and security expert Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah considers their threat to Africa.

The countries of North and West Africa have become embroiled in a new war waged by violent Islamist militants – a conflict that has no front line.

Last week’s suicide assaults in Niger on a military base and French-run uranium mine, and a siege in January of the gas plant in Algeria reveal the insurgents’ ruthless tactics.

And the start of the withdrawal of French troops from Mali, four months after recapturing northern cities from Islamist insurgents, is being touted by the militants on Internet forums as the beginning of their victory.

But this is no sudden development.

Militants and armed radical groups have expanded and entrenched their positions throughout the Sahel and Sahara over the last decade under the umbrella of al-Qaida in the Islamic Mahgreb (AQIM).

They move from one country to another – a hard core of operatives working in an area that covers parts of southwest and south Libya, southern Algeria, northern Niger, northeast Mauritania and most of northern Mali.

Poorly administrated, these vast desert spaces provide the groups with an ideal terrain.

Map showing Islamist groups in Africa

They also have connections in northern Nigeria, especially with homegrown militant group Boko Haram.

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Analysts believe there are dormant cells in many large cities, including most capitals in the Sahel region.

There are several reasons that this network of militancy has flourished…

Read more: BBC

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