Small Wars Journal

The Jamestown Foundation Terrorism Monitor: Volume XVI, Issue 8 Now Online

Tue, 04/24/2018 - 12:06am

The Jamestown Foundation Terrorism Monitor, Volume XVI, Issue 8


Jaysh al-Ayman: A ‘Local’ Threat in Kenya by Sunguta West
Tackling the Roots of Uzbek Terror by Dana E. Abizaid
The UAE’s Divisive Strategy in Yemen by Kelly F. Thornberry

Main Articles

Western Sahara: Algeria Plane Crash Highlights Tensions by Alexander Sehmer
A plane crash in Algeria that left more than 200 people dead and prompted three days of national mourning has unexpectedly thrown a spotlight on tensions over Western Sahara.
As many as 257 people were killed when an Algerian military plane crashed shortly after take-off in Boufarik, a town in northern Blida Province just 20 miles southwest of the capital Algiers. Although most of the dead were members of the military, several of those killed were reported to be members of the Polisaro Front, the Western Sahara independence movement that is locked in a dispute with Morocco.

Niger: Jihadists Play on Local Grievances by Alexander Sehmer
The abduction of an aid worker in Niger highlights insecurity in the country’s northwest, near the border with Mali, a situation that is unlikely to be tackled by military might alone.
Suspected jihadists abducted a German aid worker in Ayorou, part of Niger’s troubled Tillaberi region, about 120 miles northwest of the capital of Niamey, on April 11. According to reports, he and four Nigerien colleagues were ambushed by eight gunmen on motorcycles, who left the Nigeriens tied up and blindfolded, before setting fire to the vehicle in which the group had been travelling and escaping across the border to Mali.

Jaysh al-Ayman: A ‘Local’ Threat in Kenya by Sunguta West

After a series of deadly attacks, Jaysh al-Ayman, an elite al-Shabaab unit formed about five years ago to carry out operations inside Kenya, has emerged as the deadliest terrorist cell in the East African nation. Although it started life in Somalia, the al-Qaeda affiliate’s Kenya wing portrays itself as a local movement and has set up bases in the Boni forest, an expanse of woodland in Kenya’s coastal Lamu County, which extends to the border with Somalia. It is from here the faction terrorizes villages and towns, and targets the police, the military and other government institutions.
The faction is named after one of its top leaders, Maalim Ayman (a.k.a. Dobow Abdiaziz Ali), an ethnic Somali from Mandera County. He was likely appointed to the role in the hope that having a Kenyan in charge of what is effectively al-Shabaab’s Kenya wing would ease tensions. Details about Ayman are scarce, and his current role within the group is unclear. According to some reports, however, he continues to train the group’s fighters in wilderness survival techniques.

Tackling the Roots of Uzbek Terror by Dana E. Abizaid

Uzbek nationals have carried out five major terrorist attacks across Europe and the United States since 2016, the most devastating of which occurred at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, in June 2016, and the city’s Raina Nightclub on New Year’s Eve 2017. The attacks, respectively, left 41 and 39 people dead. Further attacks in the Swedish capital of Stockholm, St Petersburg, Russia and New York killed a total of 28 people.
Uzbekistan is the most populous nation of the former Soviet states of Central Asia, and it borders Afghanistan, as well as the strategically important nations of Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. Although little reported in the Western media, it has proved to be fertile ground for Islamic radicals since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, due largely to a mixture of economic hardship and the harsh repression of religious and political dissent.

The UAE’s Divisive Strategy in Yemen by Kelly F. Thornberry

Yemen has become a major battleground for the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The UAE provides the second largest force in the Saudi-led military coalition fighting in the country. While the coalition came about to halt the advances of the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, however, the UAE has since focused on its own agenda.

By backing certain warring parties, the UAE hopes to confront both the Shia Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, and tackle the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood. Further, the UAE’s strategy not only aims to address the perceived threat of the Muslim Brotherhood across the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA), but it also reflects Abu Dhabi’s aspirations for greater geopolitical influence in the region.

Shia Iran, which has a long-standing territorial dispute with the UAE, remains a rival regional power that represents a threat to the Sunni Arab monarchies, especially Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Meanwhile, the UAE is also dedicating more resources to its confrontation with the Muslim Brotherhood and its political outfit in Yemen—the al-Islah party.