African Countries Improving Ability to Fight Terrorists

By Stephen Mbogo | July 7, 2008 | 8:15pm EDT

Nairobi, Kenya ( - A number of African nations have improved their capacity to combat terrorism by setting up security systems and passing legislation, and the U.S. military also is quietly providing training to armies in parts of the continent.

According to a new study by the South African-based Institute of Security Studies (ISS), countries like Algeria, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and South Africa are now better equipped to deal with terrorism.

They have also "implemented additional intelligence gathering and crime prevention measures" to ensure that suspected terrorists do not have easy access to their territories, it said.

But the report said some African nations have failed to distinguish between terrorism and political opposition, and to strengthen citizen protection without curtailing human rights.

The ISS also criticized African countries for slow implementation of measures to combat money-laundering, a crime closely linked to both terrorism and drug-trafficking.

Release of the report comes in the wake of concerted efforts across Africa to strengthen country-specific and regional security systems and laws to prevent terrorist activities from being planned or staged on African soil.

Africa has been seen as a haven by terrorist groups because of its porous borders, unstable and corrupt governments, large unpopulated areas and significant Islamic populations.

According to the Texas-based intelligence group Strategic Forecasting (Stratfor), advances in technology, such as satellite phones and global positioning systems devices, allow terrorists to operate effectively from outlying areas while staying under the radar of local law enforcement, which has not been equipped to deal with the threat.

The U.S. government, whose facilities in Africa have been targeted by terrorists, has been providing help to African countries in the counter-terrorism field.

In one example cited by Stratfor, U.S. military forces are currently in the West African nation of Niger to create a counter-terror force to root out al-Qaeda-linked fighters.

"Though the war on terrorism is highly visible in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military has taken a different approach in Africa -- one in which Washington can win the battle before it reaches the headlines," Stratfor said in an intelligence briefing.

The force in Niger, a country with vast uninhabited regions, falls under the U.S. military's Trans-Sahara Counter Terrorist Initiative.

The African force will comprise 150 soldiers, parachute commandos and reconnaissance snipers.

Another major U.S.-funded counter-terrorism initiative is the Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), created in October 2002 with the aim of detecting and disrupting transnational terrorism and enhancing long-term stability in the greater eastern Africa region.

The force, headquartered in the small nation of Djibouti in the northeastern Africa, cooperates with Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Kenya, Somalia and Yemen, and also operates in Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean waters.

Stratfor says the plan is to help these countries improve border and coastal security, create aviation security programs, learn to counter extremist influences, curb fund-raising and money-laundering operations, and track the movement of people through the largely ungoverned areas.

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