President George Weah Wednesday told a European Union (EU) Summit in Brussels that Liberia is facing terror threats due to the presence of the country’s troops in Mali.
Liberian soldiers are amongst approximately 3,300-strong West African force, supported by France and other Western powers to combat jihadist fighters from Sudan and Western Sahara that have reinforced the radical Islamist rebels controlling northern Mali.
President Weah said Liberia could face retaliatory attacks from sympathizers of terrorist organizations who are in support of their war against humanity.
In recent years, West Africa has fast become a soft target for terror attacks.
Liberia, has a relatively fragile security and vast porous borders with affected neighboring states.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb planned and launched a gun attack on Ivory Coast’s Grand Bassam beach in the commercial capital Abidjan, leaving at least 21 people dead in 2016.
Mano River member states – Guinea, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone had officially joined the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) a band of terrorists committing mass murder in the name of Islam.
The three neighboring countries are amongst 20 African states including Nigeria that are part of the Saudi led 34 nations Islamic Anti Terrorism Coalition.
Amidst domestic concerns over anti terrorism plans to counter likely retaliatory action from targeted Islamic fundamentalists groups, opposition politician Charles Brumskine is on record for imploring the then Johnson-Sirleaf administration to take proactive measures that will safeguard the country and its people.
In a statement issued 2 December, 2015, in Monrovia, Cllr. Brumskine proposed several measures for the government’s consideration in an effort to help keep Liberia safe group such as Boko Haram of Nigeria, ISIS of Middle East, Al Shabab of East Africa and other terror groups in Uganda and DRC .
The politician said there should be an absolute ban on the issuance of Airport Visas, as they reduce, if not eliminate, any possibility of vetting those who are admitted into the country.
Except in extreme and absolutely necessary cases, he also suggested that no one entering Liberia on a Visitor’s Visa should have his/her stay extended, beyond the original period granted. “But even if it becomes necessary for the stay of a visitor to be extended, the decision to extend should not be made by the Bureau of Immigration & Nationalization (BIN) alone, or any other single agency of Government, but by a committee consisting of representatives of each of the agencies that make up the Joint Security.
According to him, a person entering Liberia on a visitor’s visa should not be allowed to adjust his/her status to that of a resident.
Liberia has in recent years proven to be susceptible to people national security agents considered “terror suspects.
In September 2009 security authorities arrested seven Pakistani “terrorist suspects,” including one who ate his mobile phone’s SIM card when questioned. The men were arrested at the Roberts International Airport, approximately 50 kilometers (35 miles) from the capital Monrovia.
Also in January 2009, immigration authorities said they arrested, detained and sent back to their countries 11 “Arabs” who they believed were terrorist suspects.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is a Salafi-jihadist militant group and U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization (FTO) operating in the Sahara and Sahel.
The group traces its provenance to Algeria’s civil war in the 1990s and has in the past decade become an al-Qaeda affiliate with regional ambitions. AQIM and its offshoots pose the primary transnational terror threat in North and West Africa, according to U.S. officials.
The flow of militants from the Sahara and Sahel to Syria and Iraq, where thousands of Moroccan and Tunisian citizens have joined terrorist groups, is raising concerns about battle-hardened fighters returning to these relatively stable countries.
A successful Algerian counterterrorism campaign forced AQIM from its operational base near the Mediterranean to the Sahel region that includes Niger, Chad, Mauritania, and Mali, where the group has established footholds.
AQIM’s members also joined the ranks of the insurgency in Iraq during the 2003–2011 war with the United States.
The group has about one thousand members in Algeria, according to the State Department, and smaller numbers in the Sahel region, which includes areas in Chad, Mali, and Mauritania. It also has cells in Libya, Nigeria, and Tunisia.
AQIM’s tactics include guerilla-style raids, assassinations, and suicide bombings of military, government, and civilian targets. Its members have frequently kidnapped, and sometimes executed, aid workers, tourists, diplomats, and employees of multinational corporations.
The group raises money through kidnapping for ransom (KFR) and trafficking arms, vehicles, cigarettes, and persons, according to the U.S. State Department. AQIM’s operational area saw an influx of arms in the aftermath of NATO’s 2011 Libya air campaign.
According to West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center, AQIM’s objectives include ridding North Africa of Western influence; overthrowing governments deemed apostate, including those of Algeria, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia; and installing fundamentalist regimes based on sharia.
Analysts say AQIM’s ideology blends global Salafi-jihadist dogma with regionally resonant elements, including references to the early Islamic conquest of the Maghreb and the Iberian Peninsula.
– Festus Poquie & files