A New Haven for Terrorists

By Dialogo
August 14, 2013

I believe that chances are slim for the terrorist network Al Qaeda to perform large scale attacks or even a single attack that resembles the scope of what happened in the last decade. The majority of their leadership has been dismantled; many were killed and some of their older members, especially the more experienced ones, are incarcerated.

Increased security levels at diplomatic and military facilities using new technologies has also contributed to hampering attacks from taking place, in addition to having intelligence agencies constantly monitor and intercept communications making these more predictable.

These factors led to a reduction in their operations since the second half of the last decade, which was characterized by isolated actions from so-called “lone wolves,” or people who were not necessarily linked to the network, and many times never even had any contact with them, but perpetrated attacks based on extremist ideology.

In most cases, the name Al Qaeda, internationalized by Osama Bin Laden, would be used to increase the importance and latent power of their actions, which in some aspects worked as efficient propaganda to maintain the ghost created by the former feared leader of the organization alive.

However, the scenario that has been closely observed by analysts has been taking another direction. Years of strong military opposition by the U.S. and the coalition forces against radical terrorist groups in the Middle East forced part of them to migrate to new regions that are traditional centers of conflict, where weak governments are plagued by economic decline, creating beneficial conditions for them, particularly in North Africa.

Taking advantage of the international attention on relevant matters, such as the conflicts in Syria, political instability in Egypt, the French intervention in Mali, resumed peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, and Iran’s nuclear program, they established themselves in these areas and get support from other radical Islamic groups, creating excellent opportunities for training and recruitment without external interference.

There are, however, many other groups operating in that region, such as the Boko Haram in Nigeria and the Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, who own modern arsenals of explosives from Libya that are more powerful and difficult to detect.

The latest attacks in Yemen show that many suicide bombers have improved their techniques, resorting to carrying explosives inside their own bodies, making them look harmless.

In this context, there is the possibility that North Africa may now become an important operating base for regionalized attacks, which would also strengthen the extremist groups in the Middle East. It is possible that the international community is facing a new phase of radical terrorism with bold and extremely lethal actions.