North Africa Theater
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.
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.
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.
We recently noted an internal shake-up in the Libyan regime that seemed to signal a tilt back to the sidelined hardliners. This seems not to have affected Washington's plans, announced today, to restore diplomatic relations. This may actually reveal something about a strategic shift underway in Washington—away from the hubristic neocons, with their ambitions to remake the world, and back towards pragmatists (typified by the Trilateral Commission) who believe in wooing recalcitrant regimes into the pro-West fold rather than overthrowing them. Note that Washington appears to be racing for Qadaffi's good graces with Hugo Chávez, who would doubtless woo Libya (and its oil) for his Third Worldist agenda...
The conventional wisdom is that Libya's Mommar Qadaffi is defanged and domesticated. Recent events, however, indicate a strategic tilt back towards the bellicose on the part of the savvy despot. A cabinet shake-up favoring the hardliners comes on the heels of barely-veiled threats of terror attacks against Italy. From Reuters, March 5:
This is practically Orwellian. Is the Algerian regime using the printing of the anti-Islam cartoons—blurred and denounced—as an excuse to crack down on pro-Islamist newspapers? From Al-Jazeera, Feb. 13:
Algeria and Yemen have arrested journalists working for newspapers that have reprinted cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that led to protests around the world.
The Pope greeted a group of Tuareg desert nomads in St Peter's Basilica Nov. 13, using the occassion to invoke the "universal brotherhood" of all the world's peoples. The ten Tuareg visitors, dressed in blue and white robes and turbans, were in the Vatican to pay tribute to Charles de Foucauld, a French Catholic missionary who lived among their people in the early years of the 20th century.
"The speed with which Algeria has gone from symbol of revolutionary socialism to Islamic battleground has confounded most observers," states the blurb for The Call From Algeria: Third Worldism, Revolution, and the Turn to Islam by Robert Malley (UC, 1996). Remember when Black Panthers like Eldridge Cleaver fled there, and the Algerian revolution's theorist and chronicler Frantz Fanon—who rejected religion as the opiate of the oppressed—was a global icon of anti-colonial struggle? A generation later, the country has embraced a degree of mandatory piety that would make Jerry Falwell blush—largely in response to the jihadi threat. From BBC, Nov. 1: