Al-Qaida affiliates in north and east Africa could radicalise new subset of British youths, says report
The Guardian, Wednesday 4 April 2012
Al-Shabaab members in Somalia. Photograph: Feisal Omar/Reuters
Jihadists exploiting ungoverned spaces across large stretches of north and east Africa present a potential terrorist threat to the UK and could radicalise "a new subset of British youths", according to a study by a leading defence and security thinktank.
Al-Qaida affiliates such as AQ in the Maghreb and al-Shabaab in Somalia, and attempts to influence the terror group Boko Haram in Nigeria, raises a "worrying aspect of an arc of regional instability encompassing the whole Sahara-Sahel strip and extending through to east Africa", says the report published on Wednesday by the Royal United Services Institute.
"The focus of anti-jihadist counter-terrorism is shifting to Africa," says the report, written by RUSI research analyst Valentina Soria.
It adds: "Western intelligence and security services understand what is happening in Pakistan, in the Maghreb and in Yemen, even if they cannot do very much about it.
"But counter-terrorism officials privately acknowledge that they are unsighted, and are working hard to try to understand how far the jihadist challenge may be migrating to Somalia, Kenya, north Nigeria and the borderlands of some of the vast territories of west Africa".
The report, Global Jihad Sustained Through Africa, continues: "Most significant is the potential for radicalisation and then mobilisation of a new subset of youth in the UK. This has already taken place over the last 15 years in sections of the Pakistani, north African and even Indian communities; the UK could soon be facing much greater radicalisation among the Somali minority and new radicalisation in some sections of other communities from east and west African countries."
It concludes: "From west to east Africa, across the sub-Saharan region, we may well be witnessing a new phase of decisive developments that could trigger further turmoil.
"The UK cannot expect to remain immune from the 'spill-over' effects of events that could reshape part of the African continent".
The study says it is unclear whether al-Qaida's core leadership is making a conscious effort to regroup and reconstitute itself in the Horn of Africa and across sub-Saharan Africa. It says militant groups are divided over whether to remain locally-based insurgencies or become an international terrorist organisation with a global jihadist ethos.
It concedes there is no direct public evidence that the groups are provoking terrorist attacks in
Britain. However, it notes that attacks on UK citizens and interests abroad have already taken place in Kenya and Nigeria.
It points to a network of connections, including training camps, between al-Qaida in the Maghreb, al-Shabaab, and Boko Harem.