Egypt – The Egyptian revolution, part of the Arab Uprisings, continued with rioting and clashes in the capital Cairo and other towns in the country. A number of people have been left injured after opposition protestors clashed with the governing Muslim Brotherhood (MB), some of whom have been attacked in their offices, which were ransacked. Since the beginning of the year there have been a number of riots in Egypt which have resulted in injuries and deaths. The Muslim Brotherhood appears to be clinging to power, and many Egyptians accuse them of behaving like the old regime. Security in Egypt is threatened by the on-going unrest, and there is a strong possibility that militant organizations will take advantage of the crisis to embed into Egyptian society.
Further, there were accusations by Syrian rebels that a ship carrying arms from Iran to the al-Assad government passed through the Suez Canal. The accusations were denied by the Egyptian Suez Canal Authority. The ship in question, which carried a Tanzanian flag, was destined for Syria. The port authority intercepted the ship following reports that it had been docked in Iran prior to entering the Suez Canal. Egyptian authorities explained that the ship was carrying 7, 479 tons of Urea Chemical and was allowed passage through the Suez Canal. Syrian rebels claim that the ship was carrying 8, 500 tons of weapons and ground missiles for the al-Assad government. In early January, it was reported by 361 Security that a senior Iranian intelligence official had visited Egypt to discuss the formation of a new intelligence service controlled by the MB. 361 Security also stated that the Iranians would ask for compensation for their engagement with the Muslim Brotherhood. It is possible that a deal was struck between the MB and the Iranians to allow certain vessels of importance to the Iranians to pass through the Suez Canal. The Iranian government would have reason to support its ally the al-Assad government with war material shipped via the Suez Canal.
Ethiopia – Ethiopia’s intelligence agency claimed on March 25 that it had foiled a plot by Somalia’s al-Shabaab militant organization. al-Shabaab is reported to have planned to kidnap employees from the United Nations World Food Programme (UNWFP) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) from Ethiopia, and transport them to Somalia in order to demand ransom for their release. African employees of the UN may become the next targets for capture and ransom by militant organizations throughout Africa as other hostage targets, such as Western Europeans, become more difficult to capture. In Syria, some rebel groups have kidnapped UN employees in order to extort ransom money. Employees of international organizations such as the UN working in nations undergoing conflict, or nations bordering nations in conflict, are advised to ensure that they are protected by robust security procedures.
Libya – The Qatar-based news channel al-Jazeera reported that Libya has become a major source of weapons for militant jihadists since the Libyan Civil War and the removal of Muammar Gaddafi from power. Former Libyan military depots were not secured by NATO forces in the country, allowing jihadists to seize a significant amount of weapons. Libya is significant to the global jihadist movement as a central arms depot that can be accessed by jihadist militants operating in North Africa, the Levant, and Europe. Europe is close to Libya, and nations such as France are at risk from “lone-wolf” jihadist attacks supplied by war materiel from Libya. Jihadists in Europe can also use Libyan arms to combat European right-wing organizations that are targeting Muslims in various countries in Europe, and seek the support of the Muslim communities in these countries that are threatened by vigilante attacks.
Mali – On March 18 it was reported that one French soldier was killed and three others seriously injured by a roadside bomb in the area of the Ifoghas Mountains. The French are advised to seek a transition to an UN-led military force, as France does not want to lose more soldiers and risk being drawn into long-term guerrilla war in Mali.
Nigeria – On March 18 a series of explosions were reported in the northern city of Kano. Militants targeted a bus station in the Sabon Gari district of the city, which is the home of many Christian Nigerian migrants from the southern regions of the country. At this time no organization has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but it is believed that Boko Haram (BH) conducted the attacks. As of January 2012 approximately 150 people have been killed in Kano following a campaign of co-ordinated attacks were carried out by the group.
Somalia – On March 18, it was reported that a large car bomb exploded in the Somali capital of Mogadishu. In recent months the jihadist militant group al-Shabaab has been conducting a campaign of small-scale attacks, including car-bombs and suicide operations. The attack on March 18 was the largest carried out by al-Shabaab since September 2012. al-Shabaab, which has not carried out successful attacks recently, is reported to be focusing on carrying out operations in Mogadishu. The group vows to topple the government under the Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who was chosen by the country’s new parliament in 2012. Al-Shabaab is likely concentrating its attacks on Mogadishu to demonstrate that the current government cannot secure its own capital and the people who live within it.
Tunisia – The Tunisian government announced that it is setting up a number of crisis cells in the country after it was warned by the United States that al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) was seeking to establish a base in the country. These security cells will be the responsibility of the Tunisia Supreme Security Council, and will gather information about jihadist networks seeking to enrol young Tunisians who desire to fight in Syria. The Tunisian government should be aware that these networks can be activated inside Tunisia and cooperate with AQIM, thus presenting a long-term security threat to the country.
Paul Ashley is the Senior Counter-Terrorist Analyst at 361 Security