Egypt – The Egyptian Prosecutor’s Office explained that three suspects linked to al-Qaeda targeted the United States and French embassies in Cairo as well as an Egyptian military facility in the Sinai Peninsula. In the May 15 361 Terrorist and Security report, it was highlighted that there was a possibility of a terrorist attack on a Western embassy in Egypt, but there were no further details. It is possible that these two incidents are connected, and that insurgents are using the country’s civil unrest in an attempt to attack Western targets.
In another report, two Egyptian jihadists have called for all Sunnis to launch attacks on Shiite led countries in response to the al-Assad offensive in al-Qusayr, a city in central-western Syria near the Lebanese border. If this has any effect, it will certainly cause a great deal of problems and the conflict in Syria will definitely overspill.
Mali – The main political parties of Mali welcomed an announcement that presidential elections will be held on July 28. It is likely that Malian and foreign militants will attempt to hijack the election process. These militants do not like that France and its associated allies have forcibly removed them, and will attempt to put a stop to Western-backed elections in Mali. Tensions will be high in the run-up to the election, and it will be up to those who provide it security to ensure that the elections proceed as smoothly as possible.
Niger – On May 23, in attacks against the north-central town of Agadez, and a French-owned uranium mine further north in Arlit, the Niger government said at least twenty soldiers and five suicide bombers were killed. The French media stated that the Salafist militant group the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) had claimed responsibility for the attacks. In a later report from the Long War Journal, however, it is stated that this was a joint operation between the “Those Who Sign in Blood Brigade” and the MUJAO.
It is believed that these well-planned and executed attacks which were carried out by a five man assault team and were in revenge for the death of Abdel Hamid Abou Zeid, an al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) commander who was killed by French and Chadian forces on February 25 in a military operation in northern Mali. This is the first attack inside Niger since Nigerien troops were committed to assist the French in its military campaign in Mali. MOJWA is an active militant organization that is a splinter group of al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb, and its goal is to spread jihad across a large section of West Africa. Its operations have been limited to southern Algeria and northern Mali in the past.
The “Those Who Sign in Blood Brigade” were responsible for the January attack in Amenas, Algeria. Although Niger is within the group’s area of operations, there has been no indication in the past that the two groups have formed an alliance. If they formed an alliance, future attacks on the order of the May 23 assault should be expected.
Niger became a French colony in 1922, and gained its independence on August 3, 1960. The French still have huge interests in the country and will no doubt become further targets of militant attacks in the future. Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the leader of the Amenas oil field attack, has stated:
“We will have more operations by the strength and power of Allah and not only that, but we will move the battle to inside his country if he doesn't withdraw his mercenary army."
This statement only goes to prove that there will be more attacks in Niger sometime in the future. It is also possible that Niger could be the next insurgent hotspot for militant Salafist forces in West Africa due to the flight of jihadists from Mali.
Nigeria – Nigeria’s military has to be very careful in its ingoing operations against Boko Haram (BH) militants in northern Nigeria. There is a great possibility that BH and the Nigerian military could be engaged in a protracted conflict. The Nigerian military’s efforts are complicated by its belief, or excuse, that BH militants are hiding amongst the Northern Nigerian population. Ill treatment of the local population may actually increase support for BH.
On May 31, it was reported that three people had been arrested and admitted to being members of the Lebanese Hezbollah. They were allegedly targeting Israeli and United States interests in the region. On February 21, 361 Security reported that three members of an Iranian-backed terrorist cell had been arrested in the country. It is possible that the three recently arrested men were part of the same group.
Paul Ashley is the Senior Counter-Terrorist Analyst