West & Central Africa

Missionaries fear increased activity of Al-Qaeda in Mali

Increased attacks by Jihai terrorist groups in Mali, West Africa has gained the attention of the United Nations which held an urgent discussion at the Security Council (Thursday 5 October).

United States officials confirmed reports: “that a joint U.S. and Nigerien patrol came under hostile fire in southwest Niger.” This attack resulted in the killing of five soldiers  – two from Niger and three U.S. Army Special Forces troops.
Two others were wounded by the Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin, ‘Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims’ a coalition of an Al-Qaida affiliated terrorist group, the Al-Qaida in the Maghreb (AQIM). Namatta Abubacar, an official from Tillaberi region in Niger, said the figures are higher with five Nigerien soldiers were among the dead.

It is however not clear if the new Islamic jihadi group called Islamic State in the Greater Sahara which has claimed some of the attacks is responsible for this attack.

A public affairs analyst in Maiduguri, northeastern Nigeria, said, “The Nigerian government needs to be concerned about the developments in Mali. It will be tragic for the government to assume the French and American forces will defeat the terrorists and therefore it does not need to worry.

“We have seen that radical Islamic ideologies have easily spread in the region. To claim Boko Haram is being defeated and then not worry about the storm in the Malian region will be unfortunate,” he added.

“Whenever there is human suffering brought about by radical Islamic terrorism, the church is always worried,” said the Rev Musa Daniel, in Maiduguri. “We have a proverb that says ‘when you see the beard of your friend on fire, you quickly splash water on yours,’ from experience we know that all radical Islamic terrorists have made Christians
their primary targets. We are worried about our Christian brothers and sisters in the region. ”He said, “We have mission team out there. We are continuously praying for them.”

A number of missionaries abducted by the terrorist groups in the region have been released but the jihadists still hold several more. Stephen McGown, abducted in 2011, was released on 25 July this year, after negotiations brokered by a Non-Governmental Organization, Gift of the Givers and “an operation managed by France and South African intelligence through an intermediary,” according to a Global Christian News report.

The UN noted the surge in the activities of the terror group in the last four months. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said since June, the attacks have “significantly worsened.” The Islamic terrorist groups carried out 75 attacks: 44 against Malian forces, killed 39 of the forces and wounded 44. UN’s MINUSMA operation suffered 44 attacks and the French Barkhane mission suffered 10. “These figures represent an increase of 102.7 percent for all attacks.”

The report said. All must be done to prevent “a descent into a vicious cycle of violence and chaos, jeopardizing the future of Mali and its chances for lasting peace,” warned Guterres.

Niger receives hundreds of millions of dollars in military assistance for counterterrorism within the regions, being surrounded by Nigeria, Mali, and Libya, all countries posing signifcant terrorist threats. France and the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) have troops in the region, especially the US’s drone air facility in Agadez, where it is helping in reconnaissance flights; surveillance intelligence support in the fight against the terrorist Islamic groups in West Africa. Agades, in Niger, is also a popular route for human trafficking and movement of people seeking refuge in Europe through Libya.

“We have lost churches, missionaries and years of work to insurgencies in Nigeria, we pray Christians in the Mali and Niger regions don’t suffer as we have donel” said the Rev Daniel said.

 

Hassan John is West Africa Editor, Global Christian News and priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos.

Image Credits: CC/Google Images/UN force in Mali