The State Department on the 18 Dec warned that a new terrorist group linked to an Algerian militant is now posing “the greatest near-term threat to U.S. and Western interests” in the Sahel region of Africa. In Jan 13 Belmokhtar’s group attacked a gas plant in Algeria which resulted in the death of thirty-eight civilians, including three Americans. Four months later, his group joined with a Western African terrorist faction — the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa — to carry out attacks in Niger that killed at least twenty people.
In Aug 13 Belmokhtar’s group and the West African faction announced that they were uniting to create another group, called Al Murabitoun.
The National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) report compiled by 16 US intelligence agencies warned President Barack Obama that empowerment of al-Qaeda through financial and logistic support in Syria will threaten Washington’s interests in the Middle-East seriously.
“The new NIE report was delivered to US President Obama on the 6 Dec13 on the al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in Syria,” an informed source close to one of the intelligence agencies told FNA. In this report, the US intelligence agencies have studied the identity and actions of the members of these militant groups in the last two years, the source said, adding that the groups’ financial and logistic resources have also been identified and disclosed in the report.
“The intelligence agencies have underlined that if the al-Qaeda-affiliated groups are empowered in Syria, some fundamental changes will occur in the Middle-East region which will threaten the US interests across the world, especially in the Middle-East and the Persian Gulf, seriously,” the source said. “The NIE report raised the threat level posed by these groups against the US national interests to orange, and said they can also threaten the energy routes in the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea,” the source stressed. “Given the US approach and role in the Syrian crisis, the report has created abundant security and intelligence differences and discussions among the members of Obama’s cabinet,” the source said.
“In recent years, instead of orchestrating major plots against the West, Zawahiri and other al-Qaeda leaders have urged sympathizers there to carry out terrorist attacks in their name and posted bomb-making instructions online to help them but the fear is that at some point in the future a strengthened al-Qaeda may reprioritize and launch its own terrorist attacks inside the West,” the source said. Observers believe that if past history is a guide, al-Qaeda and its affiliates will eventually lose ground in Syria and other Jihadist fronts in the Arab world because of the unpopularity of their mediaeval ideology and their harsh treatment of the local population. In fact, a backlash is already underway in Syria. Once the al-Qaeda dream of creating Islamic theocracies starts to fade, it is possible the leaders of the various al-Qaeda affiliates will blame the West, and – just like bin Laden on 9/11 – lash out at the powers they believe are blocking their goals.