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Jihadists Now Targetting Africa
A recent article in Sada al-Jihad (Echo of Jihad), an on-line magazine supporting global jihad, outlines al Qaeda's growing interest in exanding into sub-Saharan Africa. The Project for the Research of Islamic Movements (PRISM) translated some of the June 2006 article by Abu Azzam al-Ansari, titled "Al Qaeda Moving to Africa," and published in the magazine's June issue, the seventh time the magazine has appeared.

The author clearly states the advantages Africa offers global mujahadeen in their struggle. Among the primary ones named are:
1) The broad weakness of the governments and corruption, making it easier to operate in Africa than "in other countries which have effective security, intelligence and military capacities";
2) The number of people with significant combat experience that can be recruited across the continent among the many large Muslim communities;
3) The poverty and social conditions which "will enable the mujahadeen to provide some finance and welfare, thus, posting there some of their influential operatives";
4) The availability of cheap weapons in many parts of the continent;
5) The richness of Africa in oil and raw materials. (Diamonds, anyone?)

It is not at all clear from the document that the al Qaeda reference is to the old-guard al Qaeda. Rather, it seems to be something more in line with Abu Musab al-Suri and his idea of self-starting radical groups empowered to take whatever action they deem necessary and appropriate to their circumstances.

In this light, the continuing expansion of Salafist forces in Somalia, and the seemingly-complete rout of U.S.-backed warlords acquires another dimension. Rather than a product of the internal circumstances of Somalia and the years of chaos there, the Islamist triumph may be the first step in broader, though loose-knit strategy to make significant use of Africa in the near and mid-term.

It also bodes ill for the conflict in Darfur, which Osama bin Laden has already cast as part of the jihadi struggle, and other areas where the Salafists are already established (Algeria, Mali, Chad etc.)

PRISM notes that the document offers a suprisingly pragmatic view to approaching the Sufi Muslim population of the region, rather than the traditional Salafi-Jihadi rhetoric.

"The line of thought of approaching the Sufis, with their huge presence in Africa, is another sign of the pragmatic thinking of the new generation of global Jihad—dogmatism and central
command are no longer a typical position. There is also no sign of Takfiri positions. Therefore, pragmatism and the attempt to compromise with the local conditions and adopt them, increase the weight of local conflicts, local Jihadi groups, and the focus on
each conflict separately. There is no call for Jihadi unity in Africa, but for more chaos that will serve the interests of global Jihad in other, more important, regions."

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