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Daesh, al-Qaeda compete for influence in Africa

Analysts say 2014 and 2015 have seen 'war for influence' in Africa between Daesh and al-Qaeda

17.02.2016
Daesh, al-Qaeda compete for influence in Africa

Algeria

By Ahmed Aziz

ALGIERS, Algeria

 Seeking to expand their influence to new areas, the terrorist groups Daesh and al-Qaeda are competing to gain a foothold in Africa, analysts said.

"Africa is a new point of expansion for terrorist organizations," Algerian journalist Boualam Fawzi told Anadolu Agency.

He said the African continent is rich with natural resources, which is a magnet for militant groups.

"However, African countries lack financial resources and are unable to control their borders," he added.

Al-Qaeda was founded by Saudi national Osama bin Laden in the late 1980s. The group had carried out attacks against civilian and military targets in several countries, including the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenyan capital Nairobi and Uganda's Dar es Salam.

Fawzi recalled that the al-Qaeda group had infiltrated the African continent since the 1990s. "This means that al-Qaeda had pinned high hopes on expansion in Africa since early times," he said.

Just last month, an al-Qaeda-linked group claimed responsibility for an attack on a luxury hotel in Burkina Faso, which left 29 people dead.

Daesh, Fawzi said, has gained a foothold in Africa through its powerful propaganda machine. "It has succeeded in winning presence in areas previously held by al-Qaeda," he said.

 Allegiance

Bin Tayyab Mohamed, a professor of Shari'ah, said Daesh was seeking to expand in Africa by winning allegiance of local groups that claim to work in the name of Islam.

"Al-Qaeda, meanwhile, seeks to consolidate its foothold via online forums and by accusing Daesh of being a less religious group," he said.

Mohamed, who is an expert in so-called Islamist groups, said the face-off between Daesh and al-Qaeda is still limited to social websites and online forums. "The main goal of this face-off is to win influence in Africa," he said.

According to Mohamed, Daesh is seeking to promote its idea of proclaiming a worldwide caliphate.

"Al-Qaeda, meanwhile, seeks to make use of mistakes committed by Daesh in the areas under its control [to win support]," he said.

War for influence

Algerian expert Bin Galoul Mohsen said that 2014 and 2015 had seen a "war for influence" in Africa between Daesh and al-Qaeda.

"Daesh has presence in more than 10 African countries either in the form of Jihadist organizations or active or sleeper cells," Mohsen told Anadolu Agency.

He said Daesh-linked groups had managed to control a number of cities in crisis-hit Libya in 2014 and 2015. "Armed groups in Tunisia have also vowed allegiance to Daesh in late 2014," he added.

The Algerian expert said that a number of al-Qaeda members in Algeria have defected and vowed allegiance to Daesh. "Nigeria's Boko Haram group has also vowed allegiance to Daesh," he said.

The Algerian expert went on to name Ansar Beit al-Maqdis group, which is active in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, as one of the most prominent groups that have vowed allegiance to Daesh.

"Daesh has formed armed groups in seven countries – Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, Nigeria, Mali and Niger," he said. "The organization also has sleeper cells in at least three countries: Morocco, Mauritania and Sudan. Authorities in these countries have already announced disbanding Daesh-linked cells."

Security expert Mohamed Tawati, for his part, said that al-Qaeda has presence in six African states – Somalia, Algeria, Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Libya.

"In Somalia, al-Shabaab group is linked to al-Qaeda," he said.

He said that al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) organization is also active in Algeria, Mali, Niger and Mauritania. "There are al-Qaeda-linked groups in Libya as the Shura Council of Mujahideen in Derna," he added.

Tawati also said that Jamaat al-Murabiteen has also merged with AQIM in late 2015.

"This means that al-Qaeda is effectively present in six countries," he noted.

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