The Jihadist Eruption in Africa

(Wall Street Journal) Shiraz Maher - The story of the hostage crisis in Algeria actually begins in Libya, where unintended consequences of the Arab Spring are now roiling North and West Africa. Gaddafi had long drawn mercenaries from among the Tuareg, a nomadic group spread across five countries. When the Arab Spring spread to Libya two years ago, and as his own regular forces began to defect, Gaddafi enlisted support from thousands of Tuareg fighters to suppress the rebellion. When Gaddafi was killed in October 2011, his armed and trained Tuareg forces retreated to redoubts in Mali, bringing with them caches of sophisticated arms, including heavy weaponry and antiaircraft missiles. The influx of disaffected fighters culminated in the creation of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), which last spring overran several towns in northern Mali and declared independence, tacitly joining forces with jihadists who operate in the region. The jihadists then unraveled their alliance with the MNLA and established a semiautonomous Islamic state. Jihadist forces last week were readying themselves to seize Mali's capital, Bamako, when the interim administration of President Dioncounda Traore called on the French to intervene. The writer is a senior fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization at King's College London.

2013-01-18 00:00:00

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