The New Al Qaeda Menace
Al Qaeda has a new stronghold in Africa in northern Mali, its largest since the fall of Afghanistan in 2001. It has successfully gained the support of a local jihadist group, Ansar Dine, much as it partnered with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Algeria, Mali’s biggest neighbor, which has a long border with the new jihadist emirate, seems curiously unwilling to take action to address in the problem.
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a franchise of the Al Qaeda global terror organization, has successfully aligned itself with a local extremist group in Mali named Ansar Dine, or Defenders of the Faith, and together they have effectively taken control of the northern two-thirds of Mali. The new alliance now is destroying the Islamic heritage of the fabled city of Timbuktu, much as Al Qaeda and the Taliban destroyed Afghanistan’s historical treasures in the years before 9/11.
AQIM has long been among Al Qaeda’s weaker franchises. Created from an Algerian terrorist group in 2006, it had some early success blowing up the United Nations headquarters in Algiers, but for most of its existence it has been confined to kidnapping Westerners traveling in the remote deserts of Algeria, Mali, Mauritania and Niger as well as other criminal enterprises. But this spring, after a military coup in Mali, AQIM found a partner in Ansar Dine. Together they swept out government forces from the north of Mali, then turned on a Tuareg independence movement that initially had been their partner and now control a vast Saharan stronghold the size of France.