Europe shields itself against jihadism

The successive terrorist attacks that in recent weeks have rocked France and hit Vienna on Monday made the noise on Tuesday the alarms in Europe, which has decided to shield itself against the jihadist advance. On the same day that the French authorities arrested new suspects for the attack on the Nice Basilica and outlawed a new organization for its radicalism, Germany and Italy reinforced their border controls, while Hungary offered Austria the sending of special forces and the United Kingdom raised its alert level.

The climate of tension and concern was noticed from early in the morning with the message of condemnation sent by the different governments after the terrorist massacre in Vienna. As part of an important search for suspects, the German Police decided to reinforce their controls with Austria and, together with the Hungarian Government, offered the neighboring country to send special forces agents if necessary.

Italy, like Germany, decided to shield its southern border line, one of the main gateways to Europe. The objective is to detect the arrival of subjects susceptible to committing attacks such as those perpetrated in the French cities of Paris and Nice, and in Vienna. In addition, he intensified “controls at border posts” on immigrants arriving from the North African coasts, “also with the involvement of the Army,” according to the Interior Minister, Lucia Lamorgese, who on Tuesday chaired a meeting with the National Committee for order and security, together with the leadership of the Police, the secret services, the penitentiary system and the General Staff. Meanwhile, the Foreign Minister, Luigi di Maio, asked create an anti-terrorism law in Europe, inspired by the American ‘Patriot Act’, after the last attacks.

An outlawed Turkish group

Determined not to step back, French President Emmanuel Macron showed his condemnation of the Vienna massacre at the same time as the French Police proceeded to arrest four suspects in the Paris region for possible links with the jihadist who murdered three people on October 29 at the Notre Dame basilica in Nice. Likewise, the Interior Minister, Gérald Darmanin, announced, in the name of the fight against radicalism, the dissolution of the Turkish group Gray Wolves after several recent incidents.

Switzerland, mobilized in the search for suspects in the attacks in Vienna, arrested two young men, aged 18 and 24, in coordination with the Austrian authorities. Hours earlier, the UK had decided to raise the terrorist alert level to the fourth degree on a scale of five. The “severe” level on the scale means that an attack is “highly probable”, detailed the British Executive.


In Niger, the last traditions of the Peuls

REPORT – Breeders and nomads for many of them, this Sahelian tribe retains a strong identity underlined by customs such as the Guéréwol nuptial ritual. Yet many young people are tempted to join the jihadist ranks.

Face made up in vermilion red, lips and dark eyebrows, a young Wodaabe is ready to face the gaze of the female jury.
Face made up in vermilion red, lips and dark eyebrows, a young Wodaabe is ready to face the gaze of the female jury. Pascal Maitre / Myop

From our special envoys Jean-Marc Gonin (text) and Pascal Maitre / MYOP (photos)

In the Sahel, Mother Nature is capricious. Cruel to some, she is generous to others. At the end of the rainy season, farmers in northern Niger curse her while the herders give her thanks. The crops of the former, in particular onions which make up the essential part of their sales, have been swept away by the overflows of the wadis. The pastures of the latter are covered with tall, soft green grass. Walking through these expanses on the edge of the Sahara delivers an extremely rare spectacle: abundant vegetation, riddled with ponds filled with rainwater. “The animals profit, notes Badédé, a Fulani trader from Agadez. They eat and drink as much as they want. “

The celestial windfall delights the Peuls. A good part of this important Sahelian ethnic group, established from Senegal to Ethiopia and whose number is around 40 million, still live on pastoralism. Nomads

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Jihadists freed by Mali, the great unknown

In at least three places, the release of four hostages in Mali, Thursday, October 8, was celebrated: on the tarmac of the Villacoublay air base, near Paris, where Sophie Pétronin’s family came to wait for him the next day. ; in Bamako, around the residence of Soumaïla Cissé, the freed Malian opposition leader; and somewhere in the desert, near the border with Algeria, where the Tuareg leader Iyad Ag Ghali was giving a banquet to celebrate the jihadists that the junta in power in Mali had let go.

→ ANALYSIS. How Sophie Pétronin’s release in Mali became possible

On the side of Soumaïla Cissé, “The day of his release, we received friends until five in the morning”, specifies his wife joined by The cross. “My husband is fine. He was keen to meditate first on the grave of his bodyguard who was killed during his kidnapping six months ago. Then, he went to offer his condolences to the families of the members of his party who died of the coronavirus, during his captivity. “

“All of Bamako remembers the attacks on the Terrasse or the Radisson”

But it is the image of the “banquet”, available on social networks, that most moved Aimé, a Christian Malian from Bamako: “Iyad Ag Ghali showed his strength with this couscous and these grapes that made you want. He taunted the State of Mali by treating all these ex-prisoners involved in attacks, like those of the Radisson Blu or La Terrasse, which all of Bamako remembers. They are very dangerous individuals. “

More than 200 prisoners were freed by the junta and taken by plane to the north of the country. No exact count, no precise list is available concerning them. We rely on the photos of the banquet. On one of them, Aliou Mahamane Touré. The former head of the Islamic police of Mujao, in Gao, “Was arrested in 2013, tried in 2017, released two years later, before being handed over by the French soldiers of Operation Barkhane again to the Malian authorities”, says Drissa Traoré, of the Malian Association for Human Rights (AMDH).

The other releases could not be confirmed and remain shrouded in mystery. Since that of the hostages, Drissa Traoré is working to account for the releases decided by the junta. “A year ago, there were 200 jihadists detained in Bamako central prison. Last year, eleven were tried, this year four, including two in absentia ”, he recalls.

“The important thing was the release of Soumaïla Cissé”

The scenario of the outcome, almost a week later, seems relatively clear to Serge Michailof, author of Africanistan (1). “It was Iyad Ag Ghaly, a Tuareg leader affiliated with Al-Qaida, who negotiated with the Malian junta. He is quite close to the Algerian security services and has spent a long time in Saudi Arabia. The important thing was the release of Soumaïla Cissé. Sophie Pétronin was incidental in the negotiations ”, he said.

→ READ ALSO. The ex-hostage in Mali Sophie Pétronin, a humanitarian carried by faith

Fulani leader Amadou Koufa, also attached to Al-Qaida, active in the center and the south of the country, is not affected by the agreement, according to Serge Michailof, and has not seen his supporters released. As for the forces claiming to be Daesh, they do not intend to negotiate and are active in the region of the three borders (Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso) where “It seems that currently the French soldiers of Barkhane are concentrating their efforts to neutralize them”, he adds.

“Double language, double face”

The ruling junta in Bamako made the bet of negotiation with Iyad Ag Ghaly, the only one ready to hear the Malian soldiers, even if he had said that he would only compromise “The end of the racist and arrogant occupation of the French crusaders”. The Malian soldiers had to be helped for this dialogue by Iman Mahmoud Dicko, who can count on three ministers in the government.

“Subtle and clever, he is not an extremist, even if it was he who torpedoed the family code a few years ago”, summarizes Serge Michailof. Since Bamako, Aimé is less optimistic: “These Muslim leaders have a double talk, a double face. They are also driven by their financial interests, and there may be some in these releases. Their goal will always be for their religion to be truly applied in Mali. “


The fate of the hostages

With Sophie Pétronin and Soumaïla Cissé Father Pier Luigi Maccalli, abducted in 2018, and Nicola Chiacchio, abducted in February 2019, were released.

Sophie Pétronin indicated that during her detention, Béatrice Stöckli, a missionary from Basel, was dead. She worked in Timbuktu and was kidnapped four years ago.

A Colombian nun Gloria Cecilia Argoti, seen on a video with Sophie Pétronin, would still be alive. She was forcibly taken away on February 7, 2017 by armed men who entered the grounds of her congregation in Karangasso.


Jihadism: more than 370 radical detainees released from prison since 2012

IAt the end of May, ly had 165 prisoners linked to terrorism and radicalization in our prisons, according to the criteria of the General Directorate of Prison Establishments (DG EPI). Or 1.7% of all prisoners, monitored through the Extremism Cell (or CelEx). The vast majority for connections with radical Islamist ideology, with the exception of 5 prisoners classified on the far right.

More than 370 radical detainees have been released from Belgian prisons since 2012, according to figures collected by Thomas Renard. 60 others are eligible for exit by the end of 2021.

► The jihadist and radical influence is gradually decreasing in our prisons: our analysis to discover on Le Soir +


Jihadism grows strong in the Sahel | International

Dozens of terrorists aboard pickups and motorcycles pounced last Thursday, around noon, on the Chinegódar military camp in Niger. The skirmish ended with 166 dead, 89 Nigerian soldiers and 77 assailants, making it the worst jihadist attack suffered by this country in its entire history. This episode is but the bloody epilogue to the deadliest year in the Western Sahel since the start of the crisis in 2012. According to data compiled by the International Crisis Group (ICG), 4,779 people were killed in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso in 2019. Faso, 86% more than in 2018. Jihadist violence and extrajudicial killings of civilians by militias and paramilitary units are spreading throughout the region.

When the Tuareg rebels in northern Mali took up arms in January 2012 with the aim of creating an independent state, no one could have predicted that eight years later the entire region would be shaken by violence that has claimed no less than 12,824 lives. in this period. Its alliance of circumstances with three terrorist groups operating in the area, Ansar Dine, Al-Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI) and the Movement for the Uniqueness of Jihad in West Africa (Muyao), sparked a conflict that neither successive military operations Neither the French (Serval and Barkhane) nor the creation of the Sahel G5, the underinformed force made up of the Armies of Niger, Chad, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Mali, have been able to stop. Given the increase in jihadist attacks, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, is meeting on Monday the presidents of those five countries at a summit in Pau (south-western France) to address the issue.

In parallel to the increase in attacks and deaths, growing anti-French sentiment is spreading throughout the region on the back of groups that define themselves as anti-colonialists. If in 2013 the Gallic troops of Operation Serval were received as heroes in the streets of Gao and Timbuktu, nowadays their presence is increasingly contested. Anti-government protests in Bamako chant slogans against “the occupying army” and in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), citizen movements do not hide their discomfort at the military interventions of Barkhane, who travels the roads in the north of the country in search of suspected terrorists without any impediment.

Burkina Faso is the best example of the situation. In 2019, it became the fourth African country in the number of victims of violence, going from 303 people killed in 2018 to 2,189 last year, just one step behind such consolidated conflicts as those of Nigeria, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and ahead of Libya, according to the ICG. Burkina Faso has even surpassed Mali (1,870 deaths in 2019) and Niger (720 fatalities). The most worrying is the trend. December last year was the month with the most murders in terrorist attacks in the three countries, including the jihadist offensive against the Nigerian headquarters of Inates, which killed 71 soldiers.

In addition to Diffa, in the extreme east of Niger, where Boko Haram continues to be active, the so-called three-border area is, today, the main epicenter of this violence. From the Malian regions of Mopti and Gao, the jihadist presence has spread to the Sahel, Central-North, East and North regions (Burkina Faso) and to Tilaberi, in western Niger. It is here, in the enormous Sahelian expanses, where three terrorist groups move like a fish in the water supported by the porosity of the borders, the incapacity of armies in frank withdrawal and the discomfort, sometimes turned into complicity with the radicals, of communities plunged into poverty and abandoned to their fate who also suffer the violent repression of the State.

On the Malian side of the border, the most active is the Muslim and Islam Support Group (JNIM), the terrorist coalition resulting from the union of Al Murabitún with Mojtar Belmojtar (known as Mr. Marlboro or El Tuerto), Ansar Dine led by the Tuareg Iyad Ag Ghali and the Macina Liberation Front of the preacher Fulani Amadou Koufa. The JNIM maintains links with Al Qaeda. In 2016 Ansarul Islam arises in the north of Burkina Faso, led by Malam Dicko at the time and is now believed to be by his brother Jafar Dicko after the death of the former. Finally, there is the Islamic State of the Great Sahara (EIGS) under the command of Abu Walid Al Saharaui, responsible for the main attacks in Niger but also capable of striking in the other two countries.

In front of them, in addition to the national armies, Operation French Barkhane, the most numerous of all that this country maintains abroad, has some 4,500 troops on the ground. They have been joined by a British detachment with 100 soldiers and three helicopters and 70 soldiers and two other Danish helicopters, reports AFP. As a peacekeeping force, the UN maintains some 15,000 blue helmets in Mali, from countries such as Chad, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Egypt, Togo, Niger, China or Germany, which are constantly harassed by armed groups that have caused them about 200 casualties.

The G5 of the Sahel was born in November 2015 with the intention of deploying some 5,000 soldiers on the ground, but it has been operational since 2017, it has not reached that figure and it has financing problems, since of the 400 million euros it has only received 300 last year. In addition, its troops have been accused of human rights violations in Mali, specifically against the Fulani community. Finally, there is the European training mission for the Malian Army and the G5, the EUTM, which has just over 600 soldiers and is the only one in which Spain participates, although without engaging in combat.


France and G5 Sahel leaders close ranks to curb jihadism | International

France and the five countries of the Sahel strip closed ranks on Monday before the jihadist push in the region and the outbreaks of anti-French sentiment after seven years of uncertain anti-terrorism mission. At a summit in Pau (department of the Atlantic Pyrenees), President Emmanuel Macron and his so-called G5 counterparts: Mali, Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania acknowledged the recent failures of the current strategy. The leaders agreed to strengthen military coordination, specify the scope of the operation and expand it to other European countries.

“The increase in attacks, the destruction we suffered and the unprecedented humanitarian crisis have challenged us. We must move to a higher stage in the coordination of our operations. The results are below expectations,” said Roch Marc Christian Kaboré , President of Burkina Faso, at a press conference with Macron and Mali’s leaders, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta; from Mauritania, Mohamed Ould Cheikh El Ghazouani; from Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou; and from Chad, Idriss Déby Itno. “We need rapid military results,” he added.

The objective in Pau was twofold. First, political: to renew the commitment of the five Sahel countries to the French presence and to make them clear that France is there at their request and not with any interventionist zeal. “Do they want our presence? And do they need us? ”Macron reacted in December to protests and statements contrary to the French presence. The message, on the eve of the summit, had the tone of a veiled threat: either the partners were clearing up these concerns, or Paris could withdraw its military.

The summit gave a clear response to this request. “The Sahel G5 heads of state have expressed a desire for the continuation of France’s military engagement in the Sahel and have called for a strengthening of the international presence at their side,” the statement read. Faced with the possible withdrawal of the United States, the text expresses “its recognition” and “the desire for its continuity”

The second objective at the summit was to provide a military response to the deteriorating situation on the ground. In a report to the UN Security Council published in November, the Secretary General, António Guterres, explained that in 2019 more than 1,500 civilians had died in Mali and Burkina Faso and that more than a million people had been displaced in the countries in the region, twice as many as in 2018. Military casualties have also been considerable. 89 Nigerian soldiers were killed in an attack on a military base near the Mali border on Friday. On December 10, 71 people died in another attack on a base in the same country.

Not only will Barkhane – the name of the French operation that started in 2013 – continue in the region, but it will strengthen its military coordination with the G5 under a new name: Coalition for the Sahel. The French president announced the sending of 220 more military personnel, in addition to the 4,500 already deployed.

France, which since the beginning of operations emphasized that it covers a larger space than Europe and that has bases scattered throughout the territory, supported the idea of ​​concentrating on a smaller area. Macron announced at the press conference the creation of a joint command of France and the G-5 to fight primarily the Islamic State of Great Sahara in the border area between Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.

A key aspect of the coalition will be the presence of a group of European special forces – not just French – dubbed Takuba. The summit was attended, in addition to the leaders of France and the G-5, Secretary General Guterres; the President of the European Council, Charles Michel; and the high representative for the EU’s common foreign and security policy, Josep Borrell.

Macron proposed the summit after the death of 13 French soldiers in late November when two helicopters collided during an anti-terrorist operation in Mali. It was the largest loss of life for the French armed forces in a war scene since Beirut in 1983. The accident was a reminder of the costs to France of a distant war, with no defined objectives or an end in sight. Some commentators compare it, saving the distances, with a French Afghanistan. Seven of the deceased belonged to the 5th combat helicopter regiment, based in Pau. Hence, this city in southwestern France was chosen as the venue for the meeting.