Five years on from the first major Al-Qaeda attack – the destruction of the U.S embassies in
Just after on August. 7, 1998, explosives hidden in a pickup truck wrecked the
Since then, further attacks in
Dr Rohan Gunaratna, author of ‘Inside Al-Qaeda: Global Network of Terror’ labels Africa an ‘intelligence blackhole’ for Western governments and cites the instability due to conflict and general lawlessness of the region combined with poverty as the reasons why Muslim militants are able to operate there so efficiently.
‘There are large parts of
Like sharks, terrorists have to keep on moving it seems and Dr Gunaratna also believes that not only are Al-Qaeda cells active in East Africa but around ‘a few hundred’ of the most wanted fugitives who escaped from Afghanistan may also be hiding in the region which is easily accessed through its seemingly porous borders, especially at main ports, and the lack of effective security in certain areas.
The East African state announced in June that intelligence reports showed that extremists were planning more attacks in the country, a warning that triggered immediate travel advisories by several Western countries, including a ban on flights to the country which was later lifted.
The Kenyan authorities last month saw its proposals for the controversial Suppression of Terrorism bill rejected by a parliamentary committee. The bill allows police to arrest and search property without authority from the courts, and allows investigators to detain suspected terrorists for 36 hours without allowing them contact to the outside world and was met with fierce opposition by hundreds of protesters on the streets of
The main opposition party, Kenya Africa National Union, fear that the bill would be the first step along the way to creating a U.S military base and long-standing presence in the East African state while many of the country’s moderate Muslims which make up over 30% of the population, have been expressing fears that the bill deliberately targets and discriminates against them.
The government has also charged four Kenyans in connection with the
But with long, remote borders with Tanzania, Uganda, Somalia, and Ethiopia that are hard to police for a country with limited financial and human resources, there are plenty of ‘lawless zones’ to be taken advantage of.
Rex Hudson of the Washington-based Federal research Division of the U.S Library of Congress argues: ‘In
But Dr Gunaratna believes that the economic neglect of Western governments towards this part of the continent has led to poverty and disenfranchisement playing what he calls a ‘significant’ role too in Al-Qaeda’s ability to rise, maintain support and operate in the region.
The situation is not improving in
The report states that while the U.S Defence Department raised $1.7bn for the relief and reconstruction of
Al-Qaeda expert Dr Gunaratna believes this type of investment, not only logistically, in
Recently, the U.S has moved to thaw relations with
However, the Bush administration’s new policy of collaboration with the military dictatorship in
But it is unlikely that any future American intervention in
As Benjamin Mkapa, the President of Tanzania, where the U.S embassy in Dar-es-Salaam was destroyed five years ago this month, recently said: "It is futile, if not foolhardy to think there is no link between poverty and terrorism."
Jamie Barton is a freelance journalist and writer specialising in terrorism and international issues. www.jamiebarton.co.uk