Editor’s note: Jane Harman is Director, President, and CEO of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. A former U.S. representative from California, she was the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee from 2002 to 2006.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is a disaster with momentum – we have every reason to fear that they’ll gain more ground, and little reason to hope that the Iraqi government has what it takes to beat them back. But while we watch Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s demotion to “mayor of Baghdad” with horror, let’s remember who (and what) our enemies are.
It’s a media cliché by now to say that these insurgents were “too violent for al Qaeda.” That might be true, but it’s not because core al Qaeda flinches at the sight of blood. For the short term, ISIS is looking for territory; al Qaeda hasn’t stopped looking for targets.
Although almost no data supports the notion that poverty leads to terrorism, the sharp perceptions of injustice inherent in the unequal distribution of wealth and poverty can lead individuals to embrace extreme ideologies, either to justify fighting for resources to alleviate poverty or to punish those individuals they hold responsible for making them and others poor.
In Mali, the rebellion that was hijacked by AQIM and other Islamists was fueled by the Tuareg population’s sense of economic marginalization and perceptions that the country’s southern capital neglected the north. In Nigeria, Boko Haram and Ansaru condemn secularism’s role in fostering an environment conducive to corruption and inequality that can only be combated through the implementation of Shari`a (Islamic law).
Poverty, lack of opportunity, and acute injustice sparked the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia and those same sentiments continue to be exploited by Ansar al-Shari`a and proponents of Salafi-jihadi ideology. In Algeria, perceptions that the oil and gas sector job market was unfair and unequal led to protests in Ouargla and Ghardaia, which then led to the radicalization of some individuals seeking to redress the sector’s injustices.
In Libya, contestation for control over limited economic activities in the Sahara, particularly over provision of services to international oil companies in the upstream and over smuggling routes, has led to bouts of violence, some sporadic and others sustained.
Afghan national security forces near the border with Pakistan recently intercepted one of the largest truck bombs ever built, a massive "vehicle-borne improvised explosive device," or VBIED, packed with some 61,500 pounds of explosives.
By comparison, the truck bomb that all but leveled the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, killing 168 people, was comprised of almost 5,000 lbs. of ammonium nitrate fertilizer mixed with fuel oil. The same recipe is commonly used in Afghanistan to make a variety of IEDs that have killed hundreds of ISAF troops in small numbers since 2001 -- but typically using dozens of pounds, not thousands.
Al Shabab, which was behind the attack on Nairobi's Westgate mall, has long fomented violence and promoted radical Islam in Somalia.
1. Where did Al Shabab come from?
The Islamist militia is only a few years old, taking root in the ashes of the old Islamic Courts Union government that was overthrown by a US-backed Ethiopian invasion in mid-2006. When Ethiopian troops left, Al Shabab, which translates as "The Youth," took control of perhaps a third of the country, with anywhere from a few thousand to 14,000 fighters.
The Syrian government's shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles and launchers could imperil civil aviation if they fall into the hands of terror groups, according to an independent report examining the global proliferation of portable missiles.
The report released Friday by the Federation of American Scientists, a prominent Washington group that focuses on issues of science and security, warns that some opposition factions inside Syria are already wielding small numbers of anti-aircraft systems in combat against Syrian government forces. Citing video and photo evidence from opposition forces, media and official accounts, the FAS study says some portable launchers and missiles have been seized by opposition forces during battles with Syrian troops, while others have been smuggled in to rebel fighters from neighboring countries.
ERRI analysts say that "a number of manpaks" (shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles) may have also gone missing from Libyan warehouses when Qaddaffi was overthrown. Those weapons likely also have fallen into the hands of militants and been distributed throughout various parts of Africa. These missiles can pose a grave threat to civil aviation, ERRI analysts say.
'Sahelistan' is what the French foreign minister calls the sub-Saharan zone of Sahel. Al Qaeda-linked groups from places like Mail and Nigeria have been driven into hiding there and hit Western targets.
Africa's Sahel belt is a 600-mile-wide semiarid zone stretching from Senegal in the west to Somalia in the east. The vast, seemingly ungovernable terrain has become a sanctuary for Islamist militants.
After the Arab Spring, and then at the end of Muammar Qaddafi's dictatorship, many hoped for an end to terror in the Sahel.
Instead, weapons spilling out of Libya and ongoing military efforts to drive Al Qaeda-linked groups from places like Mali and Nigeria have hardened Islamist fighters here. This in turn has increased the risk of violence across the region.
TEL AVIV, Israel - Israel launched airstrikes on the Gaza Strip after three fired from the enclave shattered a temporary truce on Tuesday. The Israeli milita...
The rockets fired Tuesday from Gaza landed on open fields near the city of Beersheba and did not cause any casualties, Israeli military officials said, with witnesses in Gaza City telling Reuters that they heard the sound of rockets being launched from the enclave.
ISIS leader al-Baghdadi is Bin Laden's real heir, and Afghanistan's fate is now clear.
From AQI to ISIS:
The Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham/ Syria (ISIS, ISIL) is the heir to Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), formed as a direct result of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, successor to AQI leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (d. 2006) and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi (d. 2010), has suddenly emerged as a figure who is attempting to shape the future of Iraq, Syria and the wider Middle East along the lines proposed by Osama Bin Laden.
An alliance has been building inside war-ravaged Syria, with al Qaeda-linked terrorists there now working alongside hardened operatives from the prolific al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen to develop a new generation of bombs that could be smuggled aboard commercial planes, ABC News has learned.
The U.S. government had obtained intelligence that associates of an al Qaeda affiliate in Syria – the Al Nusrah Front – and extreme elements of other radical groups were being joined by operatives from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemen-based group behind the failed underwear bomb plot on Christmas Day 2009 and the plot a year later to take down cargo planes over the United States with explosives packed into printer cartridges.
And the groups are jointly working to produce new and “creative” designs for nonmetallic explosives, leading U.S. analysts to believe that the group of radicals, who have worked with Al Nusrah Front, might be looking to target a U.S.- or European-bound plane, sources told ABC News.
Romania's president said Monday that Russia has created a chain of conflicts around the Black Sea to further President Vladimir Putin's goal of rebuilding the former Soviet Union along its former border with the West.
You say the word “Nairobi” and the place sounds just about as far away as it is. But if you look at pictures and plans of its Westgate Shopping Mall, where terrorists slaughtered 67 people last September and wounded 200, you feel like you’ve been there before in many cities in America, and many times...
It was just so damned easy for the killers in Kenya to do their job. There were only four of them and it appears very likely they escaped alive.
That’s the conclusion of a confidential report being presented today to private security personnel in the New York area by the NYPD. The author of the presentation, a veteran on the force who spoke to me on condition that I not use his name, warns that the example of Nairobi “is simple, its effective and easy to copy.” And that’s especially true in the United States where almost anybody can buy a “long gun”—a rifle or an assault-style rifle—with few or no background checks.
Take away the exotic foreign names for the terrorists’ organization, Al Shabab; strip away the politics of radical Islam. As the veteran cop puts it, from a law enforcement point of view, the main considerations are practical: “You don’t need to know the political philosophy of someone shooting at you with an AK-47. You want to know how many bullets he’s got in there. You want to know what he is carrying, and what kind of tactics he’s using.”
Two suspected suicide bombers – one driving a rigged car and the other on a motorcycle – attack the Iranian embassy in Beirut, killing at least 25 people and wounding more than 150, security sources say.
Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon Ghazanfar Roknabadi confirmed Ansari's death and said the Iranian embassy was the target of the “terrorist attack.”
Four Hezbollah members were recently killed in Syria “while carrying out their sacred Jihadist duty,” according to claims posted Saturday to a website aligned with the Iran-backed terror group.The declarations come amid reports that Hezbollah is taking...
Hezbollah fighters have in recent months in allowing the regime to steadily erode nearly two years of rebel gains, and more specifically in enabling the regime wrest control of what had been the rebel stronghold of Qusayr. USA Today late last week published analysis outlining how Hezbollah is “expanding networks and deployment of fighters from Lebanon to the entire Middle East as part of its deepening alliance with Iran,” and how that expansion is being done for sectarian reasons and justified in sectarian terms.
It's not a crime to travel to southern Turkey, and there are many foreign aid groups here, so surely many people are traveling innocently. But it is extraordinary to watch this volume of international traffic from countries where al Qaeda has a confirmed and consistent presence into a NATO member state. You find yourself asking: why are these men here, and why don't they want to talk about it?
LONDON — British law enforcement agencies averted a plot to orchestrate a large-scale terror attack similar to the assault on Kenya’s Westgate mall, an official said Monday.
Police were questioning four men in their 20s on suspicion of terrorism after they were detained Sunday in pre-planned, intelligence-led raids.
Metropolitan Police did not identify the suspects or say what, if any, charges, they may face. But in a series of statements, the force said the men were all British nationals between the ages of 25 and 29, with roots in Turkey, Pakistan, Algeria and Azerbaijan.
Ayman al-Zawahri says fighters must unite behind the goal of setting up an Islamic state.
Two al-Qaeda-linked groups have emerged in Syria's civil war — Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. The first is commanded by a Syrian, the second by an Iraqi, but both are loyal to al-Zawahri.