The final military defeat of the Islamic State (IG) and Al-Qaeda banned in Russia in Syria and Iraq, approaching with all inevitability, and a noticeable reduction in the territories under their control, force the jihadists not only to change tactics, but also feverishly to look for ways to save , think about transferring your actions to other countries. Unfortunately, only one military defeat of the IG and Al-Qaeda does not guarantee a complete victory over terrorism. It is possible that some of the supporters of the unsuccessful caliphate will add up weapon, although there are likely to be few of them, recruiters who know how to brainwash too professionally work.
Most of the surviving gangsters, with the most fanatical, will continue the struggle, carrying with them misanthropic ideas. North Africa may become a region that the Islamists will try to set fire to. Perhaps it is here that they will again try to find the weakest link in order to seize the territory and revive their “caliphate”.
After the removal of the fundamentalist regime led by Mursi from power in 2013, the war against terrorists in Egypt received a new impetus. In terms of the severity of clashes between government forces and jihadists, in terms of the number of terrorist acts and the number of victims, Egypt today ranks first among the countries of North Africa.
The sad primacy The country of the pyramids retains mainly due to the partisan war that unfolded on the Sinai Peninsula in 2011.
The lion's share of the attacks falls to the north of Sinai. The main role here is played by the terrorists of the Sinai vilayet, which arose as a result of the merger of Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, the Egyptian branch of Al-Qaida, with the IG. In addition to them, other, smaller Islamist groups and even Palestinian Hamas operate in Sinai. Sometimes they interact by helping each other with weapons, conducting joint operations. Sometimes they compete and even enmity.
Of the largest terrorist attacks committed just recently, the attack on a convoy of September 11 police cars should be noted. First, the terrorists blew the landfills laid on the side of the road, and then shot the people. The attack killed 26 people. Two days later, the Egyptian security forces managed to prevent another terrorist attack. This time killed the 5 terrorists.
The North, as well as the center of Sinai, is one of the most depressed Egyptian regions with high unemployment. Until recently, the authorities did not pay attention to the need for the economic development of this region, discriminated against its population, mainly Bedouin. Unlike southern Sinai, where the population can somehow earn money by participating in the service of tourists, there is no such possibility in the north. Severe social conditions created favorable conditions for the growth of radical moods.
Another reason for the growing influence of jihadists in Sinai, according to the Egyptians themselves, was the ignorance of the population. Often, people who have a very superficial understanding of Islam as a religious doctrine cannot understand between its true values and the “devilry” that emissaries from the IG, Al-Qaeda and other radical groups instil in them, speculating on many difficulties and problems. Recently, the authorities have launched a program that could be called a religious educational program. It attracts thousands of religious leaders, representatives of the Islamic clergy, including graduates of the famous Cairo Islamic University "Al-Azhar". They lead the most genuine anti-jihadist counter-propaganda.
The population of the northern regions of Sinai, primarily Bedouin, was between two fires. The local Bedouins have never been particularly law-abiding. In order to survive, they have to engage in criminal business. In addition, the Islamists managed to attract a lot of Bedouins to their side. Hence the distrust and even hostility towards them by the authorities. At the same time, tensions between extremists and Bedouins are growing. Cases of armed clashes between them in Sinai have long ceased to be rare. Kidnappings have become commonplace for Sinai. Moreover, it is often impossible to determine who is behind the disappearance of people - extremists from IS, Al-Qaeda, or the Egyptian security forces, who, in a fierce war, do not stand on ceremony with local residents suspected of having links with jihadists.
Nevertheless, in recent times many Bedouin tribal leaders have been leaning towards cooperating with the authorities, hoping to get modern weapons from them in the necessary quantities to fight well-armed terrorists with a rich military experience. Cairo does not want to risk, because it is more interested in having as many of its informants as possible among the Bedouins, and not the fighters who can then turn their weapons against those who gave it.
After the end of 2016, the units of the "Third Force" from Misurata with the support of the American aviation cleared the city of Sirte from the extremists of the “Islamic State”, it was believed that this terrorist organization in Libya was over. However, for many, it was still unclear where the Igil jihadists had all gone. It turned out that many of them did not leave Libya, but scattered around the country, not even moving too far from their hometown of Muammar Gaddafi. The area south of Sirte, in particular the Wadi Hamra Valley and the environs of Beni Walid, became their habitat.
In the middle and end of August, terrorists from the IG again proved themselves attacking the units of the Libyan National Army (LNA) of Khalifa Haftar in the Jofra region, won by the marshal in early June during the battles against the Benghazi Defense Brigades, Al-Qaida units, Muslim Brotherhood "and other small groups of Islamists. Suddenly attacking several LNA checkpoints, the jihadists captured 10 servicemen and two civilians, who were soon beheaded, apparently, in order to show their “signature style” characteristic of the IG. Another characteristic of them is the desire to "stake out" for a certain territory. In this regard, attention is drawn to the fact that the extremists who attacked the LNA in the Jofra region immediately equipped several of their checkpoints.
It is still difficult to say with certainty whether the recent terrorist attacks on the Egyptian Sinai and in the Libyan Jofra region are a mere coincidence or the terrorists acted according to a previously agreed plan. The link between the Sinai vilayet terrorists and the Libyan terrorist organizations has been repeatedly proven. And although the Libyan Islamists do not really favor the majority of igilovts who have arrived, it is quite possible that, fleeing from destruction in Syria and Iraq, the IS militants have already begun to leak into Libya, however, like in Egypt.
It is possible that now, receiving reinforcements in manpower, igil extremists will be able to accumulate a certain critical mass, which will allow them to start a kind of chain reaction not only in North Africa, but also further south, in the countries of the Sahel and West Africa, which would explode a vast region . Libya, given its territorial fragmentation, transparent and almost uncontrolled borders, as well as the lack of effective central power and ongoing civil strife between the main centers of power and smaller groups, is a very attractive platform for the resumption of IG activities.
This country sandwiched between Libya and Algeria yielded the largest number - more than 6 thousand - of militants who went to fight under the IS flag in Syria and Iraq. Many of them, although not all, continue to return to their homeland. Nevertheless, the country's leadership, the security forces continue to restrain the growth of terrorist activities, in any case, no sharp spikes in the number of terrorist attacks in Tunisia have been registered. Although, it would seem, the relative tolerance of the authorities towards the Islamists and the mild anti-terrorism legislation compared with Algeria and Morocco should, on the contrary, contribute to the rampant jihadists.
Obviously, so far the radical terrorists have neither the strength nor the means to challenge the authorities openly. This is all the more surprising because in the 17 of the 24 of the Tunisian provinces there are IG cells, and until recently Libya and Tunisia, in fact, were communicating vessels. For example, in the west of Libya, in the area of Sabratha, located in 100 km from the border with Tunisia, there was a training camp where radical terrorists received training, including Noureddine Shishani, one of the ringleaders of the terrorists who organized the attack on 2015 in the resort town of Sousse and the National Tunisian Museum of Bardo.
Another graduate of this camp is the famous IG recruiter, who was born in Bizerte, Tunisian Hasan Dauadi. In July this year, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Tunisia issued a warrant for his arrest. Two years ago, Dowadi was already detained by the Libyan security forces, but then he somehow managed to get off dry and he was back in Tunisia. In general, Sabrata became famous for the fact that there was a corridor between this city and the Tunisian border, along which militants, smuggling and weapons almost moved freely. Even after the Americans struck an airstrike on him two years ago, he had not ceased to be a kind of hub for terrorists and smugglers.
The authorities of this country were able to learn lessons from the civil war, which lasted from 1991-th to 1998 year. Military and special services in relation to jihadists usually act tough, without showing special scrupulousness about strict adherence to the letter of the law. The agents are widely used; preventive military operations are being conducted against the identified armed groups. Since the beginning of the year, several dozen jihadists have been killed, hundreds of suspects in connection with terrorists have been arrested. New methods and means of struggle against militants are being developed, counter-terrorism exercises are being conducted.
Algeria does not spare money in order to adequately meet unwanted guests. Along the border with Tunisia, the construction of an 300-kilometer-long earthen rampart is ending. New weapons, equipment, including Mi-28H helicopters are being purchased. To monitor the situation and quickly respond to threats arising at the border, for example, in the event of breakthroughs into the Algerian territory of armed gangs, a specially constructed airfield was built. With the help of Russia, the Algerian military satellite was launched into space, which will provide data on the movements of jihadists. Algeria today resembles a fortress ready for a siege. Nevertheless, it is not possible to completely eliminate the attacks. True, the number of terrorist attacks, their intensity and scale in general do not exceed the "average" in neighboring countries.
Like Algeria, danger lurks this country in two directions at once. First, from the militants of IG, al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations, such as Takfir Wal-Hijra or the Islamic Salvation Army, who are returning home from Syria and Iraq. Secondly, at the expense of the new terrorist cluster, which has not yet fully formed, but has already loudly declared itself at the beginning of the year. We are talking about the creation in the countries to the south and west of Algeria, the so-called Islam and Muslim Support Group, which united such jihadist groups: Murabitun, Ansar ad-Din, Masin Brigade, Great Sahara Emirate. At the same time, we should not forget that such groups as Boko Haram are already operating in the Sahel countries, which will also strive to expand their zone of influence.
It is possible that jihadists expect to use the territory of Western Sahara as a springboard, if not for the revival of the Islamic state, then at least to create a base in northern Africa. In any case, the growing roll, if not reincarnation, of a certain part of the POLISARIO front (which during Soviet times was considered one of the detachments of the national liberation movement) in the direction of overt jihadist terrorists suggests that further developments in this region can go in such a scenario. In this case, a huge area from Tindouf to the north of Mali could turn into a new Afghanistan.
The front for the independence of Western Sahara, leading from the beginning of the 1970-s of the Frente POLISARIO, is currently experiencing financial difficulties. In April this year, more than a hundred POLISARIO fighters stood under the replacement of the IG. However, the first contacts with the Islamists, in particular with the Islamic Salvation Front, which acted against the Algerian government, date back to the 1980 years. In 2003, the POLISARIO fighters participated with Al-Qaida in an attack on a mining company in Mauritania, in 2005, in the Lamgiti barracks.
By the number of militants who went to fight in Syria and Iraq, Morocco is only slightly inferior to Tunisia. During the war, many Moroccans showed leadership, an initiative, not wanting to remain rank-and-file performers, much less act as self-destructing martyrs, and were promoted to commander posts. Like their counterparts in Algeria and Egypt, Moroccan special services and the military are usually not alarmed with terrorists. Like the Egyptians, the Moroccans began to involve religious leaders in anti-jihadist propaganda, and there are many of them. Some mosques in the country, there are about 50 thousand.
Be that as it may, the security forces of Morocco manage to restrain jihadists, thanks in large part to the close cooperation with the special services of France and Spain. Over the past few years, we have agreed not only to exchange information and conduct joint operations to neutralize terrorists, but also to organize agent networks in each other’s territories. However, the efforts of the Maghreb countries could be much more effective if Algeria and Morocco put an end to almost half a century of squabbles between themselves.
Where will the Islamic State get to?
- Ravil Mustafin