Countering terrorism and VEOs top AFRICOM’s priorities

Countering terrorism and violent extremist organizations is one of U.S. Africa Command’s top priorities, according to AFRICOM commander Gen. Carter Ham.

In his most recent testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee in March, Ham noted that VEOs combined with widespread illicit trafficking of weapons, drugs and humans present far-reaching security threats.

Countering those challenges is a primary focus of AFRICOM and our partner nations.

In Somalia, for example, al-Shabaab represents both a terrorist threat to U.S. and regional interests and an insurgent problem to the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG), as well as Somali regional administrations. In a video released on February 9, 2012, al-Qa’ida and al-Shabaab jointly announced their formal merger.

Of concern in North and West Africa is the terrorist organization al-Qa’ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which uses the undergoverned spaces of the Maghreb and Sahel as a safe haven.  AQIM continues to target Westerners and has kidnapped numerous individuals for ransom.

In Nigeria, Boko Haram is focused primarily on local Nigerian issues and actors, responding principally to political and security developments within Nigeria. The group has continued to demonstrate growing operational capabilities.  On August 26, 2011,  it used a vehicle-bomb to attack the UN headquarters in Abuja. The attacks, which killed at least 23 people and injured more than 80, marked the group’s first lethal operation against Western interests.

AFRICOM works with its partner nations, along with the State Department, local embassies, USAID and other groups to counter these threats. The efforts include military training, humanitarian aid and diplomacy. Last year, the U.S. invested $5.8 million to train security officers in 39 African countries through the Combating Terrorism Fellowship Program, just one program aimed at global terrorism.

Another joint effort, the Partnership for Regional East Africa Terrorism (PREACT) brings together countries including Burundi, Djibouti, Comoros, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.   The program is operated by the State Department, USAID and the Department of Defense.

Click on the links below for more information on violent extremist organizations operating in Africa, as well as a look at efforts to counter such groups.

AFRICOM fact sheets:

Combating Terrorism Fellowship Program

Trans-Sahara Counter Terrorism Partnership

State Department fact sheets and press releases:

For African terrorism, region must lead but U.S. is helping

Country reports on terrorism 2010

Recent news reports:

Al-Qaeda dominates northern Mali, desecrates Timbuktu tomb

Q&A: Islamic group spreading terror in Nigeria

— Compiled by AFRICOM Public Affairs Office.

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