The Critical Threats Project releases a weekly update and assessment on the al Qaeda network.
- Al Qaeda associate Jama’a Nusrat al Islam wa al Muslimeen (JNIM) is conducting a terror campaign targeting West African sites frequented by Americans and Europeans. JNIM attacked a restaurant in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, on August 14, killing 20 people. AEI’s Critical Threats Project warned that a similar attack on a resort in Bamako, the capital of Mali, on June 18 signaled the return of this campaign. These attacks mirror a series of attacks by AQIM and al Murabitoun, now a component of JNIM, in late 2015 and early 2016. JNIM’s attack campaign is intended to expel Western influence from West Africa and punish states that cooperate with French counterterrorism initiatives in the region. [Revisit “Warning from the Sahel: Al Qaeda’s Resurgent Threat” from September 2016, and stay tuned for a forthcoming graphic depicting the JNIM network.]
- Russian diplomatic engagement in Libya seeks to strengthen Russia’s preferred military partner and supplant American and European influence in the country. Libyan National Army (LNA) commander Khalifa Haftar met with senior Russian officials in Moscow to request military support. Russia has provided limited military and technical support in response to Haftar’s requests in the past, despite Russian officials’ public commitment to the UN peace process. Russia aims to secure economic interests in Libya and rebuild its Soviet-era influence in North Africa. [Read Emily Estelle’s “The General’s Trap in Libya” for more on the negative implications of Haftar’s rise.]
- A former al Shabaab commander defected to the Somali Federal Government (SFG). Former deputy leader Mukhtar Robow (Abu Mansur) turned himself in to the SFG on August 13 and issued a public statement on August 15 accusing al Shabaab of neglecting the needs of the Somali people and urging militants to follow his example. Robow broke with al Shabaab leadership in 2013. His defection will have a marginal impact on the group. [Read CTP’s profile of Mukhtar Robow.]