New Issues regarding Terror in West Africa

By Scott A. Morgan

    Over the last two months AQIM (Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb) or the Al-Moulatan Brigade has launched two high profile and successful attacks in Bamako and in Ouagadougou. These attacks targeted Western (UN and French) Interests and hotels in both cities. In both instances Western Forces assisted in the recapture of the hotels (source I & source II).

    It appears that the Islamists suspect that the outsiders were using these facilities in an effort to gather intelligence regarding future operations. Several Nations in the region suffer from the classic formula that allows groups like this to thrive: weak Governments with porous borders acting as incubators for such groups.

    History bears that out for AQIM. It was formed in 1998 after the turbulent period of time in Algeria. It was known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GPSC) and it changed its name, in January 2007, after formally joining Al-Qaeda in 2006. Previously the group has used Northern Mali and Southern Algeria as a base of Operations, however it is suspected of moving into both Tunisia and Libya.

    So the question now becomes what will become the next target or base of operations? There are plenty of opportunities in West Africa but recently one event occurred that has French Speaking Media Outlets talking openly about the region: it appears that a Mauritanian National who was a member of Al-Qaeda, and had escaped Death Row after admitting his role in a Car Bomb Assassination Plot against the President (and escaped) was captured along the Border between Guinea and Guinea-Bissau. The question about whether or not AQIM was attempting to form a cell has probably been answered in the affirmative; however the question of where it is located - be it in either Guinea or Guinea-Bissau - has yet to be determined.


    Above is a picture of the Mauritanian Terrorist Saleck Ould Cheikh who was captured on the border between Guinea and Guinea-Bissau (Courtesy of The North African Post). 

    Already several steps have been taken by Nations in the region. In Dakar and in N’Djamena hotel security is increasing. Senegal and Chad are close allies of both Paris and Washington in the effort to defeat Islamist Groups. Chad itself has been targeted by the Nigerian Islamist Group Boko Haram on more than one occasion during last year. 

    So it’s not that much of a stretch of the imagination to conclude that Dakar could be the next target of the Islamists. There is another interesting wrinkle that could be exploited by the Islamists: neighboring Gambia has declared itself an Islamic State recently. Due to the close proximity it is also a host for some of the Gambian Opposition Parties as well. Since the 2014 coup attempt, in Banjul, the US and Dakar are now sharing Intelligence regarding what is occurring in the region.

    Al-Qaeda had a presence in the region during the Sierra Leone Conflict during the 1990s. The Group was involved in the Blood Diamond Trade in order to raise funds to launch Operations against American and other interests. 

    Both Guinea and Bissau have had a history of Coups and poor Governance. They sit on historical trade routes as well, so this means that there is an opportunity to find an interest to exploit and raise funds that way. Two things that could generate some interest are the trade in both Narcotics and Human Beings. Also the Extractive Mining Industry in Guinea could be a quick and easy source of revenue.

[The views expressed in this publication are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Dissecting Society]


  1. Bissau has always been a headache. But you are right poor governance, corruption, weakness are all ingredients of terrorism. AQIM is competing with other groups in the region so we can expect an increase in lethality. Good job.

  2. Hi Morgan,

    First of all: great job.
    Second: the question is, how did we allow AQIM to get this strong? 1998 was the year that AQ targeted several US targets in Africa and in the ME, so how did intelligence agencies fail to see the growth of its affiliates?

    Guinea and Guinea-Bissau have been a problem for a long time and we must remember that the US captured a top military brass, from Bissau, in Cape Verde, a couple of years ago cause he was involved in drug trafficking (if my memory isn't failing me) with connections to terrorist groups. So, your assessment about Bissau and Guinea may be spot on. We should definitely look into it.

    Another detail about Bissau: I recall they allowed 72 Middle Eastern Muslims with fake Syrian passports to fly to Portugal. These 72 individuals disappeared to the North of Europe leaving a newborn behind. This created a diplomatic row between Portugal and Bissau. Who were those 72? Why did they disappear in what was viewed as a coordinated op?

    So, I'd say a Jihadist cell has already been set up in Bissau.

    "So it’s not that much of a stretch of the imagination to conclude that Dakar could be the next target of the Islamists."


    Time to cut their nodes of supply.


  3. These guys are spreading out! I mean, not even Africa escapes? How will this impact tourism and what are African countries doing to safeguard themselves?


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