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Al Qaeda in 2012!

Interesting Article: "Kenyan picked to head local Al Qaeda wing" by Bernard Momanyi / Kenya published Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

An interesting article mentioned that Kenya is likely to continue facing a growing threat from radicals, after Al Qaeda announced the elevation of one-time Nairobi-based militant Amiir Ahmad Imam Ali to lead terror operations in the country. In a statement posted on the website of the Muslim Youth Centre, the Al Qaeda and Al Shabaab are vowing even more vicious attacks in the country under Ali’s leadership. The group now refers to Ali as its “supreme Amiir of Kenya.” Kenyan security forces have been on high alert since the military was deployed to Somalia in October last year to fight Al Shabaab militants accused of a series of kidnappings and other criminal activities on its soil. Police intelligence reports show Ali had been staying in Majengo, Nairobi and he is one of those wanted for his involvement in recruitment of terrorists, particularly in slum areas. So, what is the latest involvement of al Qaeda in the world's stage?

A recent spate of suicide bombings in the Syrian capital of Damascus is fueling a debate over whether Al Qaeda and its affiliates have infiltrated the 10-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's regime. Analysts say there is little proof – at least for now – that suggests that Al Qaeda, or its militant affiliates, are seeking to play an active role in the Syrian uprising. But the Assad regime has an ambiguous history with Sunni militants – serving at times as suspected patron and at other times as bitter enemy – and a descent into civil war could draw Al Qaeda and like-minded groups into the fray. According to Lebanese cleric Sheikh Omar Bakri, former Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had made the decision not to become involved in the uprisings sweeping across North Africa and the Middle East before he was killed in a US raid in May. Nonetheless, Al Qaeda has clearly stated its support for the Syrian opposition against the Assad regime. The bulk of the opposition is composed of the majority Sunni community while the backbone of the regime is drawn from the minority Alawite sect, an obscure religion that follows some tenets of Shiite Islam and whose adherents comprise about 12 percent of Syria’s population. That sectarian polarization has intensified and aggravated the struggle in Syria, especially as some conservative Sunnis view Alawites as apostates. Syria’s ruling Baath Party espouses a secular Arab nationalist ideology which puts it firmly at odds with the Salafist jihadist credo of Al Qaeda. But the byzantine and ever-shifting politics of the Middle East can result in seemingly unlikely tactical arrangements. Baathist Syria’s three-decade relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran, for example, on paper would seem improbable but it has proven to be one of the tightest and most enduring alliances in the region. Sometimes short-term mutual interests take precedence over ideological differences, which perhaps explains the Syrian regime’s alleged periodic tacit cooperation with Al Qaeda-inspired groups. “It’s basically a marriage of convenience. The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” says Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and author of a book on Syria under Bashar al-Assad. “But the Assad regime is a master at using such groups ruthlessly and even cynically to justify its grip on power and achieve its objectives in neighboring states. It’s one of the most overlooked parts of its foreign policy because backing such groups seems to clash with its basic Baathist secular tenets at home.” The bulk of the hit-and-run attacks against the Syrian security forces are claimed by the rebel Free Syrian Army, composed of loose-knit squads of Army deserters. But as the conflict intensifies and drifts toward possible civil war amid hardening sectarian attitudes, it could grant space for the emergence of Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups in Syria. “The moment it becomes a civil war, I think Al Qaeda will be the first on the front line because that is the ideal environment for Al Qaeda,” says Sheikh Bakri, the Salafist cleric. “It will become like Iraq.” In Africa, a new report circulated among federal law enforcement and written for policymakers on Capitol Hill entitled "A View to Extremist Currents In Libya" states that extremist views are gaining ground in the north African country of Libya and suggests a key figure emerging in Libya formerly tied to al Qaeda has not changed his stripes. "Despite early indications that the Libyan revolution might be a largely secular undertaking ... the very extremist currents that shaped the philosophies of Libya Salafists and jihadis like (Abd al-Hakim) Belhadj appear to be coalescing to define the future of Libya," wrote Michael S. Smith II, a principal and counterterrorism adviser for Kronos LLC, the strategic advisory firm that prepared the report. Belhadj is considered one of the most powerful militia commanders in Libya as head of the Tripoli Military Council. The Kronos report says that "Libya is of such strategic interest" to al Qaeda that for years it was its own entity separate from its north Africa affiliate -- al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. The report, which includes lengthy translations from LIFG so law and policymakers may directly assess the group's stated intentions, also includes a series of questions for consideration. Among them: whether the transitional government in Libya is showing a willingness to cooperate with U.S. counterterrorism operations and whether the number of al Qaeda affiliated militants has grown in Libya since the death of Gaddafi. As a worldwide entity, the past year saw hundreds of attacks and thwarted plots planned by jihadist actors in places like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. But in terms of transnational plots and attacks, activity was down considerably compared to 2010. As Stratfor forecasted, almost all of these plots involved grassroots operatives or militants from regional jihadist groups rather than militants dispatched by the al Qaeda core leadership. For 2012, Stratfor anticipates that these trends will continue and, given bin Laden's death, the core al Qaeda group will not only continue to degrade but struggle to survive. Like the past two years, jihadism in 2012 will be defined by the activities of the franchise groups and the persistent grassroots threat. Stratfor views what most people refer to as "al Qaeda" as a decentralized global jihadist network rather than a monolithic entity. This network consists of three distinct and quite different elements. The first is the vanguard al Qaeda organization, which we frequently refer to as al Qaeda prime or the al Qaeda core. The al Qaeda core is the small organization founded by bin Laden and currently led by Ayman al-Zawahiri and a small circle of trusted associates. The al Qaeda core was designed to be a small and elite organization stationed at the forefront of the physical battlefield. The second element of jihadism associated with al Qaeda is a worldwide network of local or regional terrorist or insurgent groups. These groups have been influenced by the al Qaeda core's philosophy and guidance and have adopted a similar jihadist ideology. In many cases, members of these groups received training in al Qaeda camps in the 1980s and 1990s. Some of these groups have publicly claimed allegiance to bin Laden and the al Qaeda core, becoming what we refer to as franchise groups. These include such organizations as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Notably, even though these groups adopt the al Qaeda label, they are locally owned and operated. The third and broadest element of the global jihadist network encompasses what Stratfor refers to as grassroots jihadists. These are individuals who are inspired by the al Qaeda core -- or, increasingly, by the franchise groups -- but who may have little or no actual connection to these groups. As for the year ahead, recruitment will be more difficult in the current environment, and while this may hasten the eventual decline of jihadism, it will not kill the ideology this year. In addition to persisting in such lawless places as Yemen, Somalia and the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, jihadism will maintain its niche in the West, and grassroots jihadists will continue to be radicalized and mobilized in the United States, Europe, Australia and elsewhere. 2012 will be an interesting year. Let us see what takes place as the months go by. 



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