Al-Qaida sets its sights on West Africa

By Robyn Dixon, Los Angeles Times

Mali. Ivory Coast. Burkina Faso. Chad. Nigeria. Algeria… The list continues to grow.

Countries that have never experienced Islamic Terrorism before are now being targeted.

Michael Riddering was among those killed in the attack at the Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou. Michael and his wife Amy ran the Les Ailes de Refuge orphanage in Yako.

Please pray for West Africa. Pray that God would protect His people, and allow them to be a blessing to those who would try to kill them.


JOHANNESBURG — Al-Qaida and its allies have a new strategy for spreading fear in West Africa.

Once focused on taking hostages for ransom and striking military targets in the desert, the terrorist network has sent small groups of nimble gunmen to attack hotels, resorts and other soft targets where Westerners congregate. The latest assault came March 13 in Ivory Coast, where the dead included 15 civilians.

The shift is an attempt by al-Qaida and its affiliates to gain visibility as the world’s attention has turned to threats from Islamic State militants. It is also a response to a French military offensive against insurgents in the region as well as airstrikes and other interventions by the U.S. and its allies in Africa and the Middle East.

“It’s almost a symbolic reminder that this is a serious force to be reckoned with,” said Paul Rogers, a terrorism analyst at the University of Bradford in England, describing al-Qaida’s recent attacks and its fight for relevance. “It doesn’t have the capacity to take on military forces head on, so it’s concentrating on soft targets with high impact.”

The strategy has been on display for some time on the east side of the continent, where the al-Qaida affiliate al-Shabab has launched attacks killing hundreds of civilians in Somalia and Kenya, including high-profile assaults on a mall and a university.

Its adoption in West Africa began late last year. In November, the group known as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, and its ally Al Mourabitoun killed 22 people at a luxury hotel in Bamako, the capital of Mali. In January, the two groups struck again, killing at least 30 people at a hotel in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso.

The attack in Ivory Coast marked the first time the country had experienced Islamist terrorism.

Three gunmen shouting “God is great!” attacked beach bars and hotels in Grand Bassam, east of the capital, Abidjan, shooting down white tourists and locals. In addition to the civilian victims, three members of the security forces and the gunmen were killed in an ensuing shootout.

AQIM claimed responsibility for the attack.

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