John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

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Showing posts for "AQIM"

Kidnapping, Ransoms, and the Sahel

by John Campbell
Former French hostage Daniel Larribe is welcomed by relatives as French President Francois Hollande looks on on the tarmac upon their arrival at Villacoublay military airport, near Paris, October 30, 2013 (Jacky Naegelen/Courtesy Reuters). Former French hostage Daniel Larribe is welcomed by relatives as French President Francois Hollande looks on on the tarmac upon their arrival at Villacoublay military airport, near Paris, October 30, 2013 (Jacky Naegelen/Courtesy Reuters).

Rukmini Callimachi has a chilling story on the front page of today’s New York Times, “Paying Ransoms, Europe Bankrolls Qaeda Terror.” It is a must-read. The story is based on a wide range of interviews with victims, government officials, counterterrorism experts, and thousands of pages of internal al-Qaeda documents found in Mali. Read more »

United States Military to Train Nigerian Rangers?

by John Campbell
A U.S. Special Forces trainer supervises a military assault drill for a unit within the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) conducted in Nzara on the outskirts of Yambio, November 29, 2013. (Andreea Campeanu/Courtesy Reuters) A U.S. Special Forces trainer supervises a military assault drill for a unit within the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) conducted in Nzara on the outskirts of Yambio, November 29, 2013. (Andreea Campeanu/Courtesy Reuters)

In the March 5 New York Times, Eric Schmitt’s article “U.S. Takes Training Role in Africa as Threats Grow and Budgets Shrink,” reviews U.S. military assistance and training to the weak states of the Sahel that are confronting jihadi militantsHe discusses the constraints on what the U.S. is willing and able to do in a context of domestic budget cuts and a general war-weariness in the aftermath of Iraq and Afghanistan. Read more »

The United States Designates Boko Haram and Ansaru as Foreign Terrorist Organizations

by John Campbell
A woman sits amongst the burnt ruins of the Bama Market, which was destroyed by gunmen in last Thursday's attack, in Maiduguri, northeast Nigeria April 29, 2013. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters) A woman sits amongst the burnt ruins of the Bama Market, which was destroyed by gunmen in last Thursday's attack, in Maiduguri, northeast Nigeria April 29, 2013. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)

On November 13, the White House announced that the United States had formally designated Boko Haram and Ansaru as Foreign Terrorist Organizations and Specially Designated Global Terrorists. This comes after a heated debate within the Obama administration and among Nigeria watchers that began in earnest after the 2011 suicide bombing of the UN headquarters in Abuja, for which Boko Haram claimed credit. Read more »

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb Claims it Murdered Two French Journalists in Retaliation for a French “Crusade”

by John Campbell
A poster with the portraits of reporter Ghislaine Dupont (R), 51, and radio technician Claude Verlon, 58, two French journalists killed in Mali last week is seen at the entrance of Radio France Internationale building in Issy-les-Moulineaux near Paris November 5, 2013. (Jacky Naegelen/Courtesy Reuters) A poster with the portraits of reporter Ghislaine Dupont (R), 51, and radio technician Claude Verlon, 58, two French journalists killed in Mali last week is seen at the entrance of Radio France Internationale building in Issy-les-Moulineaux near Paris November 5, 2013. (Jacky Naegelen/Courtesy Reuters)

Two French journalists working for Radio France Internationale, Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, were kidnapped in Kidal in northern Mali on November 3. Shortly thereafter, and only seven miles from where they were abducted, they were murdered.

In a blog I posted on November 4, I expressed surprise that the two were not held for ransom. Ransom is an important income stream for jihadist groups operating in the Sahel. According to the French media, the four French hostages held for three years in Niger were released in October upon the payment of U.S.$27 million, though the French government says that it did not pay a ransom. Read more »

Why Were Two French Journalists Killed in Mali?

by John Campbell
Members of MINUSMA and MNLA inspect the vehicle believed to have been ferrying two French journalists just after they were abducted in Kidal, November 2, 2013. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Members of MINUSMA and MNLA inspect the vehicle believed to have been ferrying two French journalists just after they were abducted in Kidal, November 2, 2013. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

It is not so surprising that Radio France Internationale journalist and sound engineer Claude Verion and colleague Ghislaine Dupont were kidnapped on November 2 in the northern Mali town of Kidal. The kidnapping of foreigners in the Sahel is, if not frequent, then also not uncommon. The question is, however, why were they murdered and not held for ransom? Read more »

Is AQIM’s Influence Growing in Nigeria’s Boko Haram?

by John Campbell
Ammunition and explosives seized from suspected members of Hezbollah are displayed after a raid of a building in Nigeria's northern city of Kano May 30, 2013. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Ammunition and explosives seized from suspected members of Hezbollah are displayed after a raid of a building in Nigeria's northern city of Kano May 30, 2013. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

In a recent article in African Arguments, Jonathan Hill, a senior lecturer at King’s College London and author of Nigeria Since Independence: Forever Fragile?, provides a thoughtful, if grim, analysis of the latest round of Boko Haram killings in northern Nigeria. He makes the important point that the recent murder of students while they slept at the agricultural college in Yobe state was only one in a series of assaults. He cites the raids on the secondary school in Mamudo in July, Dumba village in August, and Benisheik in September. He notes that these attacks took place during the state of emergency with a greatly augmented security presence that failed to prevent them. Read more »

The Different Faces of Boko Haram

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
Burnt houses and ashes are pictured in the aftermath of what Nigerian authorities said was heavy fighting between security forces and Islamist militants in Baga, a fishing town on the shores of Lake Chad, adjacent to the Chadian border, April 21, 2013. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Burnt houses and ashes are pictured in the aftermath of what Nigerian authorities said was heavy fighting between security forces and Islamist militants in Baga, a fishing town on the shores of Lake Chad, adjacent to the Chadian border, April 21, 2013. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Jacob Zenn, an analyst of African Affairs for the Washington D.C.-based think tank, The Jamestown Foundation, and a contributor to the West Point CTC Sentinel.

This August, Nigeria’s Sun News conducted an interview with Nasir Isiaku, who said he was a member of an “Islamic movement” called “Shiite,” which sent members to train in Iran before he joined a Boko Haram cell in Kaduna. Isiaku said he fought Christians and “drank his victims’ blood” so their ghosts would not appear in his dreams. Read more »

Boko Haram’s Abubakar Shekau: Dead Again?

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
A poster advertising for the search of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau is pasted on a wall in Baga village on the outskirts of Maiduguri, in the north-eastern state of Borno May 13, 2013. (Tim Cocks/Courtesy Reuters) A poster advertising for the search of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau is pasted on a wall in Baga village on the outskirts of Maiduguri, in the north-eastern state of Borno May 13, 2013. (Tim Cocks/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Jacob Zenn, an analyst of African Affairs for the Washington D.C.-based think tank, The Jamestown Foundation, and a contributor to the West Point CTC Sentinel.

On August 1, Nigerian media reported that Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau was either shot by the Nigerian security forces or deposed by his own men in a mutiny. Shekau has been the sole face and voice of Boko Haram’s most violent faction since its first attack on a prison in Bauchi in September 2010. The reports about Shekau are still unconfirmed—and even denied by the Joint Task Force and a rival factional leader of Shekau’s—but, if the reports are true, it would be the fourth time Shekau was wounded or almost killed. Read more »

No Cease-Fire in Nigeria

by John Campbell
Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan salutes as he parades during the Nigeria Army's 150th anniversary celebration in Abuja July 6, 2013. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters) Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan salutes as he parades during the Nigeria Army's 150th anniversary celebration in Abuja July 6, 2013. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)

Abubakar Shekau, the shadowy leader of the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram, issued a video in which he flatly denies that there is a cease-fire agreement with President Goodluck Jonathan’s Nigerian government, or that there is any prospect of one. According to the Nigerian media, he said: “We will not enter into any truce with the Nigerian government.” Read more »

Ansaru: Who Are They And Where Are They From?

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
Evidence is displayed during a hearing for suspected members of al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb (AQIM) at a military court in Tunis June 9, 2012. (Zoubeir Souissi/Courtesy Reuters) Evidence is displayed during a hearing for suspected members of al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb (AQIM) at a military court in Tunis June 9, 2012. (Zoubeir Souissi/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Jacob Zenn, an analyst of African Affairs for the Washington D.C.-based think tank, The Jamestown Foundation, and a contributor for the West Point CTC Sentinel.

Ansaru is not a grassroots organization like Boko Haram, the more prominent Islamist militant group in Nigeria. Nonetheless, Ansaru has been more of a threat to Western interests than Boko Haram. Recent evidence also shows that the two groups may be merging. Read more »