John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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French President Suggests al-Qaeda Links in Northern Nigeria

by John Campbell
December 21, 2012

France's President Hollande gives a speech where he declared "mission accomplished" during a ceremony to honour French troops at the Elysee Palace in Paris 21/12/2012. (Thibault Camus/Courtesy Reuters)


President Hollande said on December 21 that the French national kidnapped in northern Nigeria was the victim of an armed group that “no doubt has links with  al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)… who are now in Mali.”  Hollande’s administration sponsored and pushed hard for the UN Security Council resolution passed unanimously on December 20 authorizing West African intervention in northern Mali.

Alas, it is credible that the gunmen who kidnapped the French expatriate and killed two Nigerian guards do have links to radical Islamist groups in Mali.  Nigeria’s indigenous radical Islamic insurrection against Abuja is diffuse, or fragmenting.  In some parts of Nigeria’s North, law and order has broken down almost entirely. It is plausible that some group has indeed established links with AQIM, a group that has long kidnapped Europeans in Algeria and elsewhere in the Maghreb.

Post a Comment 2 Comments

  • Posted by Chike Chukudebelu

    John Campbell,

    I have a few questions for you:

    1. Are you suggesting that M. Hollande is not accurate / is not reading the situation correctly?

    2. How different from the situation in Northern Pakistan/Afghanistan is this rapidly evolving situation?

    3. Aren’t similar terrorist organisations “diffuse” or “fragmenting” (e.g. Yemen, Libya or even Mali)?

    4. Is the United States government / foreign policy establishment in denial about the situation in that part of the World?

    5. Doesn’t France (a former colonial power with a very long history in the Sahel) have a better understanding of that part of the World than anyone in the United States?

    Thank you.

  • Posted by jacob

    The group Ansaru, which was responsible for the kidnapping of a British and Italian in Kebbi/Sokoto last year has claimed responsibility for this. Ansaru was placed on the UK Terror List on Nov 23 and was described as being “broadly aligned with AQ.” They seem to operate in NW Nigeria more than Boko Haram (Shekau’s faction at least). A news piece on Ansaru’s claim of this kidnapping on Dec 23 is here: Given their statement, it seems Ansaru — if not Boko Haram as well — is working in coordination with the Mali insurgents and at the least has established links with them; Ansaru’s ideology which calls for the return of the Caliphate of Dan Fodio mirrors MOJWA’s statements as well and Ansaru’s unabbreviated name suggests an interest in “Black Africa” as opposed to Nigeria alone. It’s also troublesome that there were 30 fighters in the kidnapping raid, so it’s not just some small cell, and that it happened only 30m from Niger, suggesting a transnational element involved. Katsina is also only 500+miles from Gao, Mali. We can only hope 2013 will be less problematic than 2012 but it is hard to be optimistic at this point.

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