Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Maghreb now

The Maghreb means "west" in Arabic and refers to north-west Africa, incuding Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia and perhaps Libya thrown in.  There is now turmoil in the Maghreb and in the adjoining cantral African state of Mali. This results from a resurgence of extremist Islamist groups in both Mali and Algeria.  This resurgence seems to be based on heavy weapons that were stockpiled by Muammar Qaddafi in Libya, that with his downfall have been dispersed around the Muslim world, showing up in such disparate places as Syria, Gaza, and Mali.  Also, fighters who were allied to Qaddafi have now returned to their home countries, such as Tuaregs in Mali, and have now taken up these heavy arms against their legitimate governments. 
The first act was the take-over of northern Mali by Islamist Tuaregs, followed by their drive to capture the southern capital of Bamako.  Then the French intervened to save Bamako and under Pres. Hollande a French force of 1,800 troops plus the French air force have been coutner-attacking the Islamists.  The Malian Army proved no match for the Islamists and so the French intervened to save the situation.  Now they are driving north retaking territory and town from the Islamists and expecting further support from other African countries.  About 1,000 troops from West African countries including Nigeria are expected as well as operational support from the US.
Meanwhile a large force of al Qaeda in the Maghreb (aQiM) insurgents captured the Algerian oil refinery at In Ameras near the Libyan border.  After fighting islamist insurgents for many years during a civil war that killed ca. 200,000 Algerians, the Algerian Government and Army were not about to wait for advice.  They attacked and in a series of moves have reportedly re-captured the refinery and killed as many as 70 terrorists and abut 30 hostages were killed, although more than 100 foreigners and 200 Algerians were released.  The attack at in Ameras was blamed by the attackers on the French action in Mali, but experts said that it must have been planned some time ago. 
The significance of the war now going on in the Maghreb is that aQiM is not only trying to take territory to establish a center for terrorism, but it is also close enough to threaten Europe and its oil supply.  France and other countries are taking action against this, but they were undoubtedly caught off-guard.  PM Netanyahu called Pres. Hollande and congratulated him on the successes of the French forces in Mali.  He pointed out that France is in the same position as Israeli finds itself in, needing to take action against Islamist extremists who are heavily armed with weapons that emanate from Libya, in Israel's case Hamas in Gaza.  Noone can predict that will happen next in the Maghreb, how strong the aQiM is and how they will seek to counter the succcess of France in Mali. But, having France under terrorist assault may give the Europeans a greater sense of Israel's true situation. 


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