Kidnappings Highlight Al-Qaida's Rise In The Sahara

Recent U.S. cables leaked by the WikiLeaks website show al-Qaida gaining a foothold in the Sahel, a lawless region in the Sahara desert, straddling the African nations of Niger, Mali, Mauritania and Algeria. How to counter and curb growing Islamist militancy and banditry in this vast, poorly policed zone is a priority for governments in West Africa, Washington and beyond.

Motorbikes buzz up and down the streets of the ancient, sandy town of Agadez, the regional capital of northern Niger and the gateway to the desert. The town is largely empty of tourists who used to flock in their thousands to the historic town, en route to and from the desert.

Mayor Yahaya Namassa Kane partly blames a three-year Tuareg rebellion for their absence. But he’s also irked by Western travel advisories issued after seven foreigners were abducted in mid-September in northern Niger.

Read or listen to it all.


Posted in * Economics, Politics, Terrorism

2 comments on “Kidnappings Highlight Al-Qaida's Rise In The Sahara

  1. Karen B. says:

    Thanks for posting this Kendall. I’ve been offline much of the past week, and so had missed this. This quote particularly struck me.

    [blockquote]”This al-Qaida affiliate and kidnapping activity is very worrisome, because this has turned into a significant revenue stream, and millions and millions of dollars have been paid in ransoms,” he said. “And this results in the group being able to keep operating, continue the kidnapping and possibly even move money to either other parts of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb — or to other parts of the al-Qaida network.”[/blockquote]

    YUP. The paying of ransoms is very worrisome. It makes AID workers like me targets. Earlier this year, Spain reportedly paid 8 million Euros for the release of 2 Spanish hostages held by AQIM in Mali. It was only a few days later that these 5 workers were kidnapped in Niger. It seems in the past 2 years as soon as some hostages are successfully released (after ransom payment or prisoner release) in the Sahel, more Westerners are captured.

    I confess I often used to take my safety in Africa a bit for granted – except when riding in a bush taxi! 😉 No more. Now I truly know on a whole new level what it is to really rely on prayer for God’s grace, and protection.

  2. NoVA Scout says:

    Ransom payments are the fuel that keeps kidnapping and piracy going. I don’t have any bright ideas about how to stop it, because the transition state between wholesale payment of ransoms (which is where we appear to be now) and cutting it off (assuming there is a practical way to do that) is great violence visited on innocent victims.