Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

Blood from Stones

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Press Releases

More Africa Connections in the New World Mayhem
More bits and pieces are emerging on terrorist operations in sub-Saharan Africa, making the point that those soft, failing or failed states are rich targets for people seeking to move weapons, as well as increasingly fertile ground for recruitment by al Qaeda and affiliated groups, as well as transnational criminal organizations. The porous borders, easily-accessible weapons and lack of law enforcement make much of the vast continent a natural marketplace for weapons, as descriped in this article from Kenya. In this case, the weapons came in from neighboring Somalia, where there is a strong al Qaeda network, into Kenya, which has already been the target of several al Qaeda attacks. As the story makes clear, finding these weapons was an act of luck. The arresting officer had to wait two days before hitching a ride on a UN vehicle to report the incident to his superiors. His unit had no vehicles and no radio.

Another small but disturbing news article in the Ghanaian press says that a 36-year-old Ghanaian, Mohammed Gazali, was arrested by Spanish police in Malaga, where Gazali was serving as the imam of a mosque there. This is a small but important indication of the pipeline that has developed from the salafist groups into the traditionally-tolerant Islam of West Africa.

A few important new studies, including an important one by the International Crisis Group last year, have tried to monitor the growing influence of the salafists in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly West Africa. All have found that the influence, through the building of mosques financed by Saudi Arabia and Islamic charities, is growing. Quantifying such findings is extremely hard to do. But given the number of sub-Saharan African nationals captured in Iraq as part of the Salafist-Zarqawi network, the other arrests of West Africans in the broader al Qaeda-affiliated networks and the growing amounts of visible Saudi money flowing into the region, it seems more than reasonable to assume that the danger is real.

From recent conversations with some in the intelligence community and around it, there seems to still be almost no thought, and certainly no articulated policy, directed at countering this tendency, through either diplomacy, outreach, or increasing intelligence assets on the ground. More than four years after 9-11 the Pentagon has only recently set up a group to study failed and failing states. Little of the existing literature on this seems to have been read nor experts consulted. Rather, it appears the group is going to start from scratch, trying to reinvent much that has already been discovered, rather than moving more quickly toward developing a coherent policy that defines what U.S. interests are, how to protect them and how to counteract the enemy. And, like so much of the counter-terrorism issues outside of Iraq, sustained interested of senior officials is very hard to sustain and many things are left to languish. This should not be one of them.
A Waning Interest in Terror Finance
Some Corrections at Year's End
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