By Anant Mishra:
Terrorist networks began during the anti colonial movements that witnessed the use of weapons and mass killing to rid their nations of occupying European power and establish a new nation of their own, during the outbreak of cold war. This became a cause of relentlessness and exacerbated political and economic instability in the African and Arab countries. This gave roots to the terrorist organisations as we see today, a reform of society and politics through shockingly violent means.
One of the most infamous and transnational terrorist organizations of today is Al Qaeda which emerged as a resistance force against the soviet union during soviet occupation of Afghanistan in 1979 -1989. During the war Afghan extremists recruited young Muslims from around the world to fight for what they termed as “holy war” or jihad. A Saudi national Osama Bin Laden, emerged as a main source of financial network, providing funds to the Afghan side, began to expand the network. After the fall of Soviets in Afghanistan, he decided to create a base for future jihad, thus Al Qaeda was born.
Bin Laden moved to Sudan and established a base of operations for Al Qaeda, directly influencing Afghan nationals through social critique and terrorist recruitment efforts. Al Qaeda focussed their activities on criticizing the nations with ties to the west, the Islamic norms in the Muslim countries and foreign intervention such as that of United States in the region.
In Sudan he issued a fatwa against the United States and began attacking the key infrastructure and personnel of US government. He openly criticised US intervention in Somalia and began plans and aid to attack against the US.
With the international pressure growing, Sudan forced Bin Laden out to Afghanistan, where he struggled to reconstruct his networks. Bin Laden issued a 1998 fatwa against the US and its citizens, hence making Al Qaeda the headquarters of global terrorism. Al Qaeda claimed responsibilities for numerous attacks such as US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, USS Cole in Yemen in 2000 and September 11, 2001.
The US invasion of Afghanistan crippled AL Qaeda and its networks throughout the decade and killing of Bin Laden in May 2011, deprived the organisation of their principle leader. After the invasion of Afghanistan, Al Qaeda and its remaining followers took asylum in Pakistan, creating a new base for activities. The death of Bin Laden in Abbottabad in 2011 has weakened the international organisation but Al Qaeda remains strong with its fighters in places like Yemen and Syria.
The Current Situation:
Al Qaeda’s decentralisation and operations in conflict zones has created complications in tackling terrorism and tracking its activities. With the rise of new technologies and social media to communicate with the rest of the world has made the media a tool for observing terrorist activity.
Terrorist can now communicate and send messages to their followers, greater number of people than before. Globalisation, decentralisation and technological advancements has contributed these terrorists’ organisation growth and perpetration in European and African cities over the decades and led to the emerging of regional terrorist organisations such as the Salafists in Egypt and Al Shabab in Somalia.
International Organisations are continuously looking at economic mechanisms to stem terrorist organisations in Africa and Arab nations. There are measures to prevent terrorism through economic incentives but these terrorist groups scare away the investors that are very important for the growth in developing economies. After the down fall of financial leader Al Qaeda, jihadist’s businessmen in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, among other places fund these terrorist networks alive. If the international organisation cut the flow of funds and successfully identify the people behind the financial support, soon the militancy could end.
Sudan shares its boundaries with fellow Muslim majority regions such as Egypt, Libya and Ethiopia, having a large Muslim population. This makes the nations vulnerable to jihadists and Islamic revolutionists also their intervention in domestic politics. It is a link between the Arab and the African terrorist networks. Terrorism grew in Sudan after Bin Laden started its operations here in 1990s. Since then the rate of terrorism has grown exponentially. Numerous small groups are operating in the nation, creating chaos and hence increasingly difficult to restrict. Many terrorist organisations across the Afro – Arab region have their training grounds in Sudan, with recruits from Hamas, Hezbollah from the nations such as Iran, Algeria, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Uganda and Tunisia. Hence a crackdown on Sudan will lead to elimination of a large number of organisations in the Afro – Arab region. However Sudan has made efforts in tackling down extremism in the country, through talks with United States and other international organisations against terrorism. The main objective would lay in the financial support of these terrorist organisations, if identified; a large number of civilian casualties could be avoided. However Sudan still allows extremist groups from other nations and grants them asylum from the west.
Al Shabab is the extremist wing of Council of Islamic Court that took over southern Somalia in the mid of 2006. They merged with Al Qaeda in 2012. However with their massive presence in Somalia their activities are also restricted within the region, acting as an opposition group against the government. The organisation is vast and comprises of various clans hence is crippled due to its diversity in membership.
Despite limited resources and discontent among the clans, they have expanded their activities beyond domestic politics, for example the attack on a shopping mall n Nairobi, Kenya in October 2013. The attack was in retaliation to the presence of Kenyan troops in Somalia and their victory against Al Shabab in 2011. The shopping mall attack brought light on two important aspects. People trapped in the mall were hiding to save themselves from being a target, rather than they were being held as and hostage and the casualties that took place were loosely based on religious affiliation and nationality. Secondly, Al Shabab used twitter to issue threats to the Kenyan politicians and people from international communities hence expanding twitter’s role from a political tool to typifying 21st century terrorism.