By Michael Petrou - Sunday, December 16, 2012 - 0 Comments
A Michael Petrou report: Islamist terrorists spread chaos and fear in Africa while the West dithers
When Robert Fowler, who spent 130 days as an al-Qaeda hostage in the Sahara Desert, is asked how he’s doing, he often says he’s doing fine, then adds: “So are my former captors.” In December 2008, Fowler, then the UN Secretary General’s special envoy for Niger, was kidnapped along with his colleague, Louis Guay, in Niger and spirited to northern Mali. The two Canadian diplomats lived in punishing conditions and under the threat of execution for more than four months, until their freedom was negotiated—in exchange, it seems, for a ransom and the release of al-Qaeda terror suspects.
Fowler is now safely back in the embrace of his family in Ottawa, and he sometimes has the bizarre experience of watching YouTube videos of Omar, one of the men who kidnapped him, brandishing a Kalashnikov and issuing hyperbolic threats against France, the United States and all the countries in NATO.
Omar has a lot to gloat about these days. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), along with affiliated Islamist groups, controls the northern two-thirds of Mali, an area roughly the size of France. Their territory consists mostly of desert, but also contains several cities, including fabled Timbuktu, whose ancient Muslim shrines and monuments al-Qaeda has destroyed because of the supposed affront they present to its rigid interpretation of Islam. While American drone strikes have decimated al-Qaeda’s leadership in Pakistan, it is comparatively unmolested, and flourishing, in Africa.
By Michael Petrou - Monday, February 13, 2012 at 11:50 AM - 0 Comments
Boko Haram rejects Western education, as well as democracy
An upstart Islamist militia is causing havoc in Nigeria, killing more than 250 people this year alone, and almost 1,000 since its insurgency began 2½ years ago. Its attacks have emptied schools in the north of the country, stoked sectarian tensions between Christians and Muslims, and threatened the stability of a state that is a key Western ally and a potential economic powerhouse in Africa.
Boko Haram is the name locals in the north of Nigeria have given to the extreme Salafist group that calls itself “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teaching and Jihad.” Its nickname, which roughly translates as “Western education is sinful,” isn’t inaccurate. The group rejects Western education, as well as democracy and Nigeria’s constitution. Its founder, Mohammad Yusuf, once explained to the BBC that Western education was sacrilegious because, among other things, it teaches that the Earth isn’t flat.
Boko Haram began about a decade ago under Yusuf’s spiritual leadership. In July 2009, it launched attacks on police stations across northeast Nigeria. Hundreds died in clashes, as well as in the resulting crackdown when security forces murdered suspected Boko Haram members in cold blood.