Egypt – On May 11, The Long War Journal reported that Egypt had thwarted an attack on a western embassy. The Interior Minister announced that three members of an al-Qaeda cell were planning suicide attacks against a western embassy, or a vital, important, and foreign establishment in Cairo and Alexandria. When arrested the three had 10kg (22lbs) of explosive material, a computer with files containing information on bomb-making and a thumb drive with instructions on how to build rockets. One of the three had contacted al-Qaeda in Algeria and had also travelled to Iran and Pakistan for military training. The three had taken instruction from a group known as “the Nasr City Cell”, a group that operates inside the Egyptian Sinai and has links to al-Qaeda and the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ). The Cell is possibly linked to the attack on the United States embassy on September 11, 2012 in Benghazi, Libya. As it is unclear as to what the actual target was to be, it would not be right to speculate except that it appears that the United Kingdom and the United States seem to have embassies that are only based in Cairo. However, they may have consulates in Alexandria, but that is unclear.
Kenya –The Kenyans believe that there is a vast terrorist network operating in the country. Two suspects, Ahmed Mohammed and Sayed Mansour, who are suspected of being members in the IRGC Quds Force, were arrested in June 2012 and in possession of 15 kilos of explosives in the capital, Nairobi. The two are accused of belonging to a terrorist organisation and intending to use the explosives against British, United States or Israeli targets in Nairobi and Mombasa. The two who have been found guilty are from Iran. The Kenyan police believe that terrorist attacks were planned against government installations, public gatherings and foreign establishments. It is not clear which terrorist organisation they were supporting, but al-Shabaab have been active in the country for some time. It is possible that the two were either training members of that group to carryout attacks or they were the link between Iran and al-Shabaab. Although the group are Sunni Muslims, Iran appears not to be concerned which sect the Islamists belong to, only that they fight US, UK and Israeli interests. If what the Kenyan authorities say is correct and there is a large terrorist network in place inside Kenya, there is a possibility that more Iranians are working alongside a terrorist network. Either al-Shabab, which is the strongest terrorist group operating in Kenya, or another terrorist organization will emerge and be assisted by Iran. With a big US, UK and Israeli influence and tourism in the country, it is bound to attract Iran’s attention. The pair were given life sentences on May 6.
Libya – Saif al-Islam, the son of the deposed leader Colonel Gaddafi, appeared in a Libyan court on May 2. He faces charges of war crime allegations from the rebellion dating back to 2011. He appeared in court just to confirm his identity and about his health. There are still a number of pro-Gaddafi militias operating in the country that have not been won over to Libya’s current interim government. When this trial comes to court there will be a large international press and media interest. The media and those who still support the Gaddafi regime will no doubt cause a number of problems in the country. The Libyan government will have a large scale security operation but it will be difficult to manage. Those who still support Gaddafi and his son will no doubt attempt to cause a number of problems even to the extent of attacking the courthouse that the trial is being held in and make an effort to free Saif.
A separate report released on May 11 revealed that the British embassy is temporarily withdrawing some of its staff as political unrest continues to grow in the country. The embassy states that it has concerns over the country’s political uncertainty and the risk of clashes between rival armed groups operating in the capital. This is probably due to the standoff between the government and heavily armed militias blockading parts of the capital.
On May 13, it was reported in the press that a car bomb was detonated near a hospital in Benghazi; no group claimed responsibility. The nature of attacks appears to be changing from police stations and government buildings to a hospital. It is unsure who carried out the attack or why, as there are feuding militias and Islamic militants attempting to make a foothold in the country. It is doubtful that it was pro-Gaddafi supporters in a reprisal for the court appearance of Saif al-Islam, the son of the deposed leader Colonel Gaddafi, which will no doubt come at a later date and nearer to the trial.
Mali – There were three separate suicide attacks reported on one day against Malian and Nigerian soldiers in two towns outside Gao. The first attack targeted Nigerian troops in Menaka. A vehicle containing an explosive device entered the military camp but the soldiers destroyed the vehicle which detonated. At the same time of the first attack, there was another incident in Gossi where three suicide bombers attacked a checkpoint on foot. Soldiers shot the bombers and thwarted their attack. Yet another suicide attack occurred against a military camp in the same area resulting in one minor injury to the Malian military and the death of the bomber. At this time, no group has claimed responsibility for the attacks. The terrorists are obviously observing these and other military targets and had put a planned attack together in order to gain an advantage. The African soldiers can expect more attacks of this nature, especially once the French leave the country.
Nigeria – The country again comes into the spotlight with a number of reported deaths inside the country. In central Nigeria, twenty people were killed due to violent clashes between Muslims and Christians in the central state of Taraba which prompted the government to impose a curfew. In another report, fifty-five people had been killed in the north east of the country by well-coordinated attacks carried out by Boko Harem. The attacks were carried out on May 7 when approximately two hundred Boko Harem Terrorists arrived in the remote town of Bama in buses and pick-up vehicles. They freed 105 prisoners while some attacked a military barracks. The report stated that some of the militants wore uniforms but did not make clear as to what type of uniform. The Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan, has started an amnesty programme for Boko Haram group members, who have thus far failed to respond, and his military action is not working. If Jonathan has any further options, then he and his government need to start implementing them as his current plans to defeat the group appear not to be working.
On May 14, KGS Night Watch published a message from the Nigerian President. “President Goodluck Jonathan announced a "state of emergency" in three north-eastern states in an attempt to curb the increasingly violent attacks by the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram. (Note: Boko Haram is Hausa for "Western education is sinful.")”
In a televised address Jonathan said, "We are facing a rebellion and insurgency by terrorist groups which pose a very serious threat to our national unity….They have attacked government buildings and facilities. They have murdered innocent citizens and state officials. They have set houses ablaze, and taken women and children as hostages. These actions amount to a declaration of war…. I hereby declare a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states."
It now remains to be seen what actions will be taken against the terrorists as the areas border Niger, Chad and Cameroon. The perpetrators of terrorism in that area will no doubt put up some form of fight against the Nigerian military, resorting to guerrilla tactics if they show signs that they are losing. Border control will have to be tight as it will be easy to cross, carry out an operation and slide back into another country. Nigeria would be wise to seek the assistance of those three countries to proactively patrol the borders and kill or capture the terrorists. Failing to do this will no doubt make the State of Emergency null and void.
Tanzania – On May 6, it was reported that a bomb blast had occurred in the northern city of Arusha. For some time now Tanzania has had a number of clashes with Muslims and Christians with a Catholic priest killed on the Muslim island of Zanzibar and police using tear gas against rioters in the south of the country. Christians were attempting to burn a Mosque over an animal slaughtering conflict. With more reports of unrest in the country, security and stabilization seems to be being put more to the test.
Tunisia – Nine members of the Tunisian Security Forces (TSF) were injured when three land mines exploded near the Algerian border. The blasts occurred in the forests of Mount Chambi in the Kasserine governate. Since December 2012, there have been a number of reported clashes between the TSF and Islamic groups with this ambush being the latest at the time of writing. It may be that the patrolling soldiers have been clamping down on supply routes from Tunisia into Algeria from Libya or that Islamists are attempting to setup a training area in the mountains and forests in that region. The Islamist militants operating in that area clearly do not want to be disturbed and see the TSF as weak and ill-equipped, which therefore encourages them to fight the Tunisian army.
Another report revealed a disturbing trend in the country where radical preachers are flooding public spaces and giving speeches to promote the Salafist religion; some of these clerics are from outside the country. This may be a new trend by Islamists in an attempt to gain support and possibly recruit from inside the country by what could be seen as a normal practice. Many are entering the country with the blessing of the current government which is controlled by the Islamist party, Ennahda. This could be the beginning of Salafists taking power and turning the country into a separatist state. One part of a speech made stated, "the police and army's support for Islamists is not guaranteed, and controlling them would also require more time." The speaker continued: "I tell our young Salafists to be patient.... Why hurry? Take your time to consolidate what you have gained."
Paul Ashley is the Senior Counter-Terrorist Analyst