North Africa Theater

NYT: North Africa "staging ground for terror"

The Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC by its French initials) has been very busy lately. With little note in the world media, Tunisia last month apparently squelched a plot to attack the US and British embassies. It ended in a series of gun battles that killed a dozen militants and left two Tunisian security officers dead. It was kept very quiet—until the New York Times splashed it all over the front page Feb. 20, in somewhat sensationalist terms ("North Africa Feared as Staging Ground for Terror" by Craig S. Smith). Here are the relevant passages, emphasis added:

Mysterious Mauritanian hijacking thwarted

We're glad the hijacking was thwarted, but we don't quite get the politics behind this incident. The hijacker was supposedly seeking asylum from Mauritania (which remains a pretty oppressive place despite the democratic transition supposedly underway there), but Mauritania said the hijacker was a Moroccan from the Western Sahara. From 1975 to 1980, Mauritania occupied the southern half of Western Sahara; since then, Morocco has occupied the entire country. Are we ever going to find out who this guy really is and what he wanted? From AP, Feb. 16:

Algeria: Salafists target Halliburton

From Afrol News, Dec. 11:

An Algiers bomb attack against oil workers that killed an Algerian driver and wounded nine people, including several Western citizens, has raised fears that Algeria's trend towards peace and stability may end. As the US Embassy in Algeria today advises Americans to review their personal security, foreign oil companies already have decided to invest into protection against terrorist attacks.

"Battle of Algiers" director passes, lessons unheeded

Note the rather ironic last line of this account. Perhaps the real lesson US war-makers failed to glean from Pontecorvo's film was, "Stay out—its hopeless." From Italy's AKI news agency, Oct. 13:

Gillo Pontecorvo, one of Italy's leading filmmakers renowned for 'The Battle of Algiers', a realistic representation of Algeria's independence war against France, died on Thursday night. He was 86. The Battle of Algiers, which Pontecorvo wrote with Franco Solinas and directed in 1966, won the Venice film festival that year and was nominated for three Oscars - best director, screenplay and foreign film. The documentary-style movie showed the plight of Algerians during the 1954-62 war, denouncing the bombings and torture of civilians by the French military. It was banned in France until 1972 and in Britain until 1969.

George Galloway betrays Western Sahara

This hero of the left has again revealed himself as fundamentally reactionary. Those with any familiarity with the struggle in Western Sahara know that talk about opposing the "partition of Morocco" is akin to opposing Israeli withdrawal from "Judea and Samaria." But even given Galloway's unseemly alliance with radical Islamism, this makes precious little political sense. His apparent genocide-denial* in the case of Darfur at least has some logic, as Sudan is a fundamentalist regime with anti-imperialist pretensions. Morocco is throughly in the Western camp, a domesticated partner in Washington's War on Terror. On the other hand, King Mohamed VI and the Islamist militants who occupy his torture chambers would probably agree where Western Sahara is concerned... From the Morocco Times Sept. 18:

Al-Qaeda announces merger with Algeria's Salafist Group

From AP via Qatar's The Peninsula, Sept. 15 (link added):

PARIS — Al Qaeda has for the first time announced a union with an Algerian insurgent group that has designated France as an enemy, saying they will act together against French and American interests.

Algeria: guerilla resurgence

Islamist guerillas are stepping up attacks in Algeria, apparently led by the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), which has rejected an amnesty offered by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to try to end more than a decade of violence. On June 11, two soldiers and a communal guard were seriously injured in a bomb blast in the region of Skikda, some 700 kilometers east of Algiers. The next day, the GSPC posted a video on an Islamist site showing the slitting of the throat of a prison guard. On June 13, a soldier was killed and three wounded by two bombs in Skikda and Sidi Bel Abbes, 400 kilometers west of Algiers. Over the next three days 10 people were killed by guerillas within 100 kilometers of Algiers.

Mali: Tuareg revolt back on?

Reuters reported May 29 that Mali's armed forces are hunting down Tuareg rebels who have taken up arms again, demanding more autonomy for the desert north. According to the report, the rebels used pickup trucks mounted with machine guns to attack army camps in the desert town of Kidal, some 1,000 kilometers northeast of Bamako, before withdrawing to surrounding mountains with looted weapons.

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