Editorial

Clues from the Mali attack

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The >terror attack on a hotel in Bamako, the capital city of Mali, is yet another example of the growing influence of terrorists around the world. Though the authorities have not immediately confirmed who was behind the attack on the Radisson Blu hotel in which at least 19 people were killed, an al-Qaeda-linked group has claimed responsibility for the siege. Al-Mourabitoun, the group formed by the Algerian militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar, has claimed that >the attack was staged in cooperation with al-Qaeda in the Great Sahara region, which has a strong presence in northern Mali. If true, this underscores the theory that al-Qaeda and Islamic State are engaged in a battle of lethal one-upmanship globally. It was just a week ago that IS staged coordinated attacks across >Paris, killing 130 people. The Mali attack signals that al-Qaeda is trying to match the terror capabilities of IS. That is indeed terrible news for the rest of the world.

Mali has been a training ground for jihadists for some time now. But what exacerbated the security crisis in the West African country is the invasion of Libya by the countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 2011 in the name of helping the “Libyan revolution”. Former Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi had ethnic Tuaregs from Mali in his forces. When the Qadhafi regime was destroyed, they fled to Mali with whatever weapons they could carry. Mali has historically had a Tuareg problem, and the well-trained Tuareg men who came from Libya joined the local rebels and jihadists in the north and launched a full-blown rebellion against the government. This rebellion morphed into a powerful Islamist insurgency as al-Qaeda outflanked the Tuareg nationalists and captured the entire northern Mali. Only then did western nations wake up to the threat that a lawless Mali poses to the African continent and also the rest of the world. But their response was typical. Instead of taking urgent steps to stabilise Libya and bolster the Malian government, France sent troops in 2013 to fight the jihadists. They drove the militants away from major towns in the north, but fell short of defeating them. The jihadists, who withdrew to their desert hideouts, continued to strike civilian centres. The Bamako hotel attack is the latest strike, and it is unlikely to be the last even if the Malian government and its international backers are jolted into action. One lesson from the French intervention in 2013 is that counter-terror strategies by themselves cannot defeat the insurgents, who draw strength from the lawlessness in the region. There needs to be a regional approach that would not only fight the jihadists on the ground but also check the supply of weapons, and focus on stabilising Libya. As long as Libya remains a chaotic battlefield for different groups without a central authority, the northern and western African regions are likely to remain extremely vulnerable to jihadist threats.

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2020 8:53:24 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/mali-attack-an-example-of-growing-terrorists-around-the-world/article7905775.ece

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