Al Qaeda’s New Home
Afghanistan may not be the safe haven for Islamist terrorists it once was. Yes, it’s still a haven for terrorists—it’s just no longer as safe for them, thanks to forces from America, Britain, Canada, France, Germany and several other nations keeping al Qaeda on the run. Considering the difficulty al Qaeda is now having in keeping its operations consolidated in the face of this military threat, it is only natural it would consider moving its center of operations.
American, French, Italian, Algerian and Tunisian counterterrorism officials fear that the vast, barely governed stretches of North Africa may become a new al Qaeda center of operations.
North African terrorists were instrumental in both the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the 2004 Madrid bombings. In August 2006, al Qaeda’s second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, announced a new alliance with the Algeria-based Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (gspc). gspc embraced the alliance wholeheartedly and within a few months changed its name to al Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb. It vowed to organize extremist groups across North Africa and join the remnants of al Qaeda into a new international jihadist force. Already it is deploying North African terrorist recruits into Iraq to fight American troops and into Europe to carry out missions of terror. Thus, what started as a movement to overthrow the Algerian secular government and set up an Islamic theocracy is strengthening the movement for global jihad.
The Threat to Europe
If Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia were to become the new epicenter of the al Qaeda terrorist network, Europe would be seriously threatened. North Africa is a major source of both legal and illegal immigrants into Europe, and many ethnically North African communities already exist inside European nations. Al Qaeda bases in North Africa pose almost the same threat to Europe as al Qaeda bases in Mexico would pose to the United States. It is only 8 miles across the Strait of Gibraltar from Morocco to Spain, and not much further than that from Tunisia to Italy.
“We know from cases that we’re working on that the gspc’s mission is now to recruit people in Morocco and Tunisia, train them and send them back to their countries of origin or Europe to mount attacks,” said French counterterrorism magistrate Jean-Louis Bruguière last year. Bruguière called the Algerian group the biggest terrorist threat facing France today.
In 2003, Germany paid €5 million to secure the release of some of the 32 European tourists who were kidnapped in southern Algeria by a gspc leader. In June this year, the Austrian foreign minister visited Algeria and Mali trying to secure the release of two missing Austrians al Qaeda is believed to be holding hostage in the Sahara. The al Qaeda group is demanding the release of 10 Islamic militants in return for the two hostages.
High unemployment rates and dissatisfaction with current governments are luring more and more North Africans to political Islam for solutions. The gspc was founded in 1992 in an attempt to aid the Islamist side of an Algerian civil war. The terrorist cause definitely has its share of supporters in the region. In such an environment, terrorists can swim like fish throughout the sea of the population. Despite opposition from the local governments, these terrorist cells are too embedded to be eradicated by North African officials alone. A string of bombings in Algeria, most likely carried out by al Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb, in early June—including a double bombing that killed 13—indicates Islamist terrorist activity in that country is rising.
The mountains and deserts of North Africa are set to become a stronghold for radical Islam, a base of operations for al Qaeda, and a major threat to Europe.
An Ancient Prophecy
Anciently, this vast region spanning from Morocco to the western border of Egypt was known as Libya. This region is mentioned in the biblical book of Daniel, chapter 11, verses 40-43. This passage is about an end-time clash between a German-led Holy Roman Empire (the “king of the north”) and an Iranian-led Islamic caliphate (the “king of the south”). It predicts that the nations (or regions) of Libya and Ethiopia will be allied with Iran when it is overrun by the European empire.
Indeed, the modern nation of Libya and the Italian government have already clashed. Back in 2006, during Islamist riots following the Danish cartoon crisis, Italian cabinet minister Roberto Calderoli called on Pope Benedict xvi to launch a new crusade against Islam. Seif al-Islam al-Qadhafi, son of Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi, responded to this remark by demanding the dismissal of the cabinet minister and an apology to Islam. Otherwise, al-Qadhafi threatened, “Libya, the Arabic world and Islam would be forced to react” (Spiegel Online, Feb. 14, 2006). The minister was dismissed in this case, but as terrorist activities increase in Europe, patience is bound to run thin.
Southern European interior ministers held a conference with their North African counterparts on May 21 and 22 agreeing to step up the fight against the terrorist threat in the region. As al Qaeda terrorist networks expand, and as local populations become more sympathetic to the Islamist cause, the time will come when Europe will react with more than just conferences. According to the Prophet Daniel, this reaction will be blitzkrieg warfare.