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Sub-Saharan Africa's Rising Role in Terrorism and Crime
While the Somali piracy crisis has galvanized world opinion, it is not the only area of Sub-Saharan Africa that is attracting counter-terrorism attention.

The growing ties between criminal and terrorist groups (often one and the same when it comes to Hezbollah's broad activity in Western and Central Africa) has been noted. The Congress authorized the creation of the new Africa Command (Africom) largely because of the terrorist threat in the region.

But what is the real threat? Again I return to the pipeline metaphor, and Africa is more and more frequently a important part of that pipeline structure.

Two cases illustrate this clearly. The first, an illegal alien smuggling ring running from Ghana through Central America to the United States was ideally positioned to carry anyone, including terrorists, across multiple borders.

The ring was run by a 26-year-old named Mohammed Kamel Ibrahim, living in Mexico and using the moniker "Silk the Shocker." For $5,000 he offered to have his clients met by corrupt Mexican officials and sent on to the United States.

What is astonishing is the number of countries through which this network moved people. Like water running downhill they simply took the path of least resistance at any given moment.

According to documents filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the smugglers had associates in Africa, typically corrupt officials. And they chose their routes based on which transit points employ easily bribed authorities.

Routes have included traveling from East Africa to Johannesburg, South Africa, and from Johannesburg to Sao Paulo, Brazil. East Africans also flew from Abu Dhabi, Dubai, or Rome to Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico and Venezuela in 2007, according to the intelligence assessment. In addition, the smugglers have access to fake and real Belizean, Bolivian, Chilean, Mexican, Peruvian and South African visas.

The second is the case from earlier this month, of a bust of Hezbollah operators in Latin America, funneling hundreds of millions of dollars to use by the organization in Lebanon.

Again, the magnitude of the project is astounding.

The money ring that stretches through Venezuela, Panama, Guatemala, Hong Kong, the United States, Europe and Lebanon. The size of the network, the ability to function across religious and ethnic lines, and ability of all groups to profit from the criminal enterprise should give one pause.

Couple this with the Hezbollah and al Qaeda diamond operations, the booming drug trade in Guinea Bissau (and spreading now to Guinea, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone) and you can see how important the region has become.

A recent Brookings Institution report on failed and failing states found that "Though only about one-third of the 141 developing
countries are in sub-Saharan Africa, 23 of the 28
critically weak states are in sub-Saharan African."

All this implies that, as enforcement improves elsewhere, the pipeline is simply rerouting itself to less controlled areas. It can happen quickly, empowering and absorbing new groups, shedding those that are no longer useful or pose too high a risk.

Such is the brave new world. New tentacles of existing pipelines grow almost overnight, or so it seems from the outside. In reality, it the result of the constant probing for the corrupt underbellies of countries around the world. Africa is, unfortunately, rising again.
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