A sanctuary for jihadist gangs in West Africa. Their danger to southern Europe.

One of the reasons for the attraction of this «sanctuary area» to the semi-nomadic jihadist groups, uprooted from the peoples of these countries, is the endemic weakness of the Central African, Malian, Mauritanian and the Niger armies. Only the Algerian armies, in part those of Chad and Nigeria, are now able to carry out an effective «irregular war» against groups of individuals motivated, trained and willing to carry out their Jihad.

But it is also necessary for the sanctuary to offer them sufficient geographic security, to protect them from a mechanized advance from the depths of the areas in the hands of the military enemy, native or foreign. In the area we are dealing with, there are no large forests, nor any major towns, that can give nomadic terrorists the necessary refuge so as not to become «wandering insurgents«. And thus, to exhaust themselves in superfluous and continuous movements, through the enormous available expanses of inhospitable and free grounds, feeling the breath of the enemy in their napes.

And lead them to desire the kindness of the dispersion of their bands, the abandonment of weapons and the peace. This geographical protection is provided by the mountainous massifs of the area, which extend without interruption, covering almost all countries threatened by Afro-Western jihadism. Massifs that are adapted to the hiding place and shelter of small isolated bands. And so, we have the Djado Plateau in the north of Niger, reaching the border with Libya; the heights of Air (Azbine) located in the inner center of Niger; the Adrar of the Iforas or Kidal mountains that extend in the northwest of Mali, as the last refuge of the jihadists in the Azawad; and, approaching from the north to the other three, the elongated massif of Tass Oua-n-Ahaggar (or Hoggar) of south-central Algeria.

LA APACHERÍA - PressReader

It is easy to disregard the effective capacity of these ochre heights with rocky outcrops and studded with very low, almost desert bushes, as bases of active guerrilla bands. But it must be remembered that in similar geographic models fought the Apache wars of the southwest of the US and northern Mexico. For a long time, between 1860 and 1872, the Apache bands, sometimes of only a few dozen warriors, sometimes carrying with them the impedimenta of their families and their scarce indispensable belongings. They kept frustrated entire brigades of American cavalry and infantry. Who were unable to locate, encircle, and hunt them down. Directed the few Apaches (the hardness of the territory did not support large populations) by war chiefs or spirituals men as Ulzana, Cochise, Mangas Coloradas, Victorio, Nana y Jerónimo, this with Nache as war chief, they kept their enemies in check until the end of 1872. Then, in the second part of that ethnic war of colonization, until 1886, the tactical changes introduced in the US Army, especially by General Crook, who adapted their large regular units to a war against guerrillas, almost against «banditry«, allowed them to cornered, worn out, despaired and finally subdued the apaches.

Within this immense supranational area, the nomadic clans of merchants, drivers from sub-Saharan Africa to the Mediterranean countries and shepherds moving slowly through the desert, relying on oases to carry on safely, they are also «temporary refuge» islands for jihadist gangs. That can be incorporated during some stages to the desert marches of the native groups. The jihadists overlap and camouflage themselves with the rest of the inhabitants of the tiny villages, many of them black, and of the walkers, who sometimes form organized groups of sub-Saharians, who go to the Islamic countries of the Mediterranean, in this vast territory available.

The problem for the United Europe.

This scattered «jihadist sanctuary» places its bands near the lower belly of Mediterranean Europe, at the distance of only one of the Mediterranean Islamic countries. But, after the ill-fated «Arab Spring» of early 2011, all Islamic countries were upset, when they have not been seriously shocked. There are four Muslim countries that surround at the north that geographical area of refuge for irretrievable radicals. Tunisia is yet to find its socio-political path, which forks dangerously between radicalism and an imperfect democracy. Morocco has a high potential danger of radicalisation or Islamist subversion, by failing to satisfy the King’s concessions to the growing aspirations of its masses, more or less driven by Islamic groups and political. Algeria is for the moment the most stable and resilient society in this geostrategic area in the face of radical Muslim danger; that threatens it, either through the ballot box or through grafted and subsidized subversion. Mauritania, which lacks strong institutions and a good army and its territory is vast and sparsely populated; is the first candidate to suffer a deliberate jihadist assault, out of its current imprecise hinterland.

Estado Islámico clama haber matado a más de 200 miembros de Al Qaeda del  Magreb Islámico y del JNIM en diferentes enfrentamientos en el Sahel

But a limited-objective incursion never seeks, nor can it achieve, a lasting permanence in its physical goal. Although Westerners are alarmed by these demonstrations of «one-use commands«. Lacking a consistent operational capability, to achieve and defend a strategic goal, the true significance of their isolated tactical actions is limited. They can destabilize weak Central African regimes, as they did in January 2013 with Mali. Through numerous mobile spot actions in a territory beyond the reach of regular forces. Motivated, trained, determined and committed with the task of eradicating them or from countries where their Army is just a project or a remnant of it.

But the quick, courageous, solitary and decisive strategic action of the French armed forces, led them to face in regular battles with a modern army and suffering a very bad correlation of forces. To defend their fixed and alternative positions in villages in the territory where they had supposedly settled: the Azawad. And from where they dared to advance at several spears of attack towards Bamako: a failed operational performance.

Mali i els grups armats de l'Azawad s'asseuen a la taula de converses  d'Alger - Nationalia

The jihadist groups in north-west Africa (their names are repeatedly in the media) have a great operational decentralization. That prevents them from achieving consistent strategic objectives. Even if their specific actions are important, painful, and fearsome. So, these intransigent radicals revolutionaries in North-West Africa have failed to actively and firmly join a broad social group that gives coverage and permanent momentum to their «imperialist socio-religious movement«. The most alienated activists, and those in north-west Africa are, are gradually isolating themselves from the society in which they «live» (at least, emotionally and ideologically). And they do it for the sake of their violent methods, to those they sacrifice everything, to achieve effectiveness in action.

Europe’s containment action in this African geostrategic area.

According to data provided by the ACLED project for the location and dating of armed incidents in the area, between November 2018 and the end of March the following year, more than 2150 people were killed in the Sahel, as a result of more than 700 jihadists attacks.

About half of the victims occurred in the Central African Republic and Mali. The main jihadist groups present in the area are the Islamic State of the Sahel, a franchise of today’s decrepit and disbanded Islamic State of Iraq and Levant and the so-called Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslim, a kind of conglomerate of gangs and groups of Salafists jihadist, reaching as far as Algeria and southern Tunisia.

Ansaroul Islam: The Rise and Decline of a Militant Islamist Group in the  Sahel – Africa Center for Strategic Studies

There are four «action and security» initiatives deployed in the area under the auspices and legality of the UN and the EU. There is the French operation Barkhane, launched in 2014, which has 4500 troops deployed. There are several tasks of training and adaptation sent by the European Union, for the training of the national armed forces.

Francia revisa con el G5 del Sahel su estrategia antiterrorista en el norte  de África | Euronews

And then there is the joint and regional G-5 force, created by the African Union in 2017 with the countries of the area, supported by the EU, especially by France, with 5000 men deployed. Other countries, such as Morocco, Algeria, the US and Saudi Arabia, are also involved in combat and patrolling tasks. Although the hopes for success are great, the different operational visions in this range of participants and stakeholders in the JF-G5 bring problems to its deployment and activation.




In an area of the Sahara and the Sahel that is continuous, diffuse, extensive and of plastic geopolitical contours, comprising eastern Mauritania, northern Mali and Central African Republic, western Niger and the mountainous areas of southern Algeria, extends the natural habitat of West African jihadists. The vast transition zone of the Sahel occupies the African territories between the Sahara and the humid tropical regions, located south of it. The Sahel is plagued by persistent droughts, which are its main geographical determinant and which progressively extend the desert to the south and drive its sedentary inhabitants away to the neighbouring Central African countries. The Sahel is no more that Central Africa’s wet and green terrains, which are in process of being overwhelmed and deserted by the uncontained advance of the Sahara and which continues eastward across Chad and South Sudan to the shores of the Red Sea of Eritrea and Ethiopia.

Bereberia and the Land of the Tuaregs.

The Berber country is formed by the hinterland of the countries of the central and western African Mediterranean, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Tripolitania (western Libya). These white-skinned individuals, to distinguish them clearly from the Arabs or brown (Moors) constitute a characteristic majority in regions such as the Kabila, the Rif and the Aures. Although since the end of the seventh century they embraced Islam, the Berbers have always maintained a strenuous and discontinuous resistance against the invasion of the Arabs from the East, for the maintenance of their idiosyncrasy and regional power in their lands. Berbers were old Christians before Islamic rule. For example, in the Maghreb there were 47 bishoprics functioning in the 5th century AD.

Archivo:Map of Berber languages.svg - Wikipedia, la enciclopedia libre

At the south of Bereberia, being part of their ethnic groups and extending with the desert towards the interior of Africa, live the Tuareg or al-Tawarik. This is the plural of «tarqui«, «tarka«, which are a defined racial group within the Sanhadja of Western Sahara. The name could come from the Arabic verb «taraka«, which means to abandon, for example, religion, to become «renegades«. And it would refer to the difficult Islamization of this Berber group. Other researchers derive the name from the Arabic tharik, camino. To designate them as «road robbers«, by the total control they got during centuries over the great trans-Saharan routes and their usual looting of the black populations of the Sahel. Its organized and independent origin arises with Queen Tin Hinan, who would move from the western desert to the Hoggar Mountains. And from there they subsequently spread to the southern regions of the Sahara and the northern Sahel. There are very rich burials of women, who come from this time more or less idealized. This matriarchal origin is supported by its Christian tradition and establishes a sonship and maternal heritage in the Tuareg clans. And it gives Tarqui women freedom, esteem and prerogatives, which are unknown in the Muslim world. Forming a nation without a state of their own, the Tuareg are divided into eight tribal federations. These are geographically grouped into the northern Tuareg, the Tassili N-Ajjer, Hoggar and Adrar and the southern, the Awelimid and Kel Wi of the Air.

Tin Hinan - Wikipedia, la enciclopedia libre

Their social structure divides them into classes that are not very permeable, by virtue of their origins and the trades they do. The Tuareg of the upper classes have the privilege of wearing a veil colored with indigo, which gives the whole ethnic group its popularized name, the «blue men«. The chiefs or amenokales are here «primus inter pares«, elected by the noble classes and warriors in their sovereign assemblies, who make or ratify all decisions important to the clan. These local chiefs are privileged negotiators with the various Governments or authorities, who enjoy personal rather than institutional authority, and whose agreements can be ignored by adult males, if they are not revalidated by those assemblies. Today, the Tuareg are spread over a vast territory, without borders or well-defined lands, seeking a sedentarization that is the basis of a minimum social and economic development from the pure nomadism. This actual geographic space coincides with the «subversive habitat«, which is superimposed on it, where the various active jihadist groups in north-west Africa desert settle.

Tuaregs aprende todo sobre la historia, ubicación significado y mas

Since immemorial time, the Tuareg have been engaged in nomadic herding of camels, sheep and goats. Although its main wealth, power and status came from the «control» of the caravan routes that crossed its vast territory. This control was exercised with an eclectic combination of “customs”, robberies and as drivers and auxiliaries of caravans. This domination of the trade and supply routes, undisturbed by the European colonizers, gave them an important influence on the markets of origin and destination of those. They also ravaged the Black populations affordable from their territories, stealing their goods and capturing slaves for service and sale. The rather abrupt appearance of the new independent African states after the Second World War, definitively broke this economic power and the influence on the isolated populations in these routes. By restricting their free movement, while losing the exclusivity of the transports by its land with the progressive motorization in those.

Their transhumance and ability to adapt to periods of drought were also strangled. Droughts in the 1970s and 1980s forced families and small clans to settle alongside nearby urban centres in Algeria, Libya and Nigeria. Currently, the total population of the Tuareg ethnic group living in their natural and historical habitat and their geographical surroundings ranges from 1.2 million to 1.5 million people. And in these territories of so many countries, the population density is repetitively 1.5 people per square kilometre.

Tombuctú - Wikipedia, la enciclopedia libre

The Tuareg always opposed the formation of central states, which would project their action within their territory. They did so by force against the black empires of Mali and Songhay, which also elevated Timbuktu to the status of Magreb’s cultural capital in the Late Middle Ages. Timbuktu was founded by the Tuareg at the beginning of the 12th century, who always considered it their property and, over the centuries, reconquered it several times, the last in the period 1863-1893. The Tuareg are Muslims from the periphery of Islam, where orthodox or radical doctrines do not arrive with full power and interest. The natural and political conditions of his land have always been hard. They have developed a human resilience to survive and endure in their perennial lands. So, not only is their sui generis religion a virtue of their ethnicity. The mutual play of rights and duties, which derive from the relations between individuals and family groups, clans and tribes, are also virtues for them. Whence they derive the personal identity, referred to and compared with their peers, and the mutual protection of individuals and their primitive societies.

Estado Islâmico reivindica autoria de atentado no Mali | VEJA

So, it is not surprising that in the moments of maximum weakness of the Malian state, the Tuareg took over northern Mali and made Timbuktu their political capital. Coexisting by mutual advantage and reluctantly with the seat of internationalist jihadist groups in cities like Gao, Kital and the capital itself, in the interior of its Azawad Republic. The Republic of Mali became a yielding state. The Army tried to impose itself on the Tuaregs and the Islamist green shoots in the north. But, it lacked motivation, body spirit, training and equipment and professional will. Generals led from Bamako the spasmodic attacks against the most obvious and permanent rebel settlements. And the officers and non-commissioned officers, among whom the capabilities were similar, tried to encourage and propel their men. So that, overcoming the natural tactical laziness of fighting, the small units fulfilled their missions. For this reason, the coup d’état of 22 March 2012 was staged by the Malian captains, who, in a gesture of survival Bonapartism, were fed up with the misuse to which they were subjected.