Pakistan’s tribal areas, the hills of southern Afghanistan and Iraq’a deserts are among the best known hotbeds of jihadi activity. But there are other parts of the world where Islamicist terrorism is growing. Over the next decade, it is quite possible they may become what Waziristan or Fallujah were in the past 10 years — battlegrounds in a new conflict against terror.
Shabaab, the militant youth wing of strife-torn Southern Somalia’s Islamic Courts Union, was seen as one of the many militias in the failed state, albeit one with a fondness for strict adherence to the sharia. Since 2008, however, Shabaab has declared allegiance to Osama Bin Laden and begun talking about pan-Islamicist causes, including Kashmir. Shabaab has carried out bomb attacks in Uganda, sent fighters to Iraq, and is recruiting Somali migrants in the US. Actions remain largely local, but ambitions are increasingly global.
Likely targets: Africa, perhaps India.
China has kept an iron grip on the Muslim Uighur separatist movement in Xinjiang. However, since the anti-Chinese riots in 2009, the Uighurs have been agitating almost every year. The attacks have been primitive in the past. But this July, an attack was blamed on “Pakistan-trained” insurgents.
If Uighurs are being trained and indoctrinated by the Taliban or Al Qaeda in Pakistan, one can expect their lethality will increase over the next few years. Beijing’s opacity makes it unclear how much of this remains nationalism or Islamicist extremist.
Likely target: China.
3. North Africa
Al Qaeda in the Maghrib remains active in Mali and Niger. A largely Algerian group, it now invokes the causes of Palestine, Somalia and Chechnya. With members trained in Afghanistan, the group has been kidnapping Westerners to raise money.
Two of its terror cells were found in Spain and France, with members arrested by at least six other European countries. More than 10 per cent of the foreign Al Qaeda fighters in Iraq are from its ranks. Analysts argue that AQIM is increasing capabilities.
Likely targets: Europe, Africa.
Al Qaeda Arabian Peninsula was largely on the run a few years ago, but the near collapse of the Yemen government has allowed the terror group to expand. It may be behind attempts by Islamicists to capture some towns in Yemen.
The country is already home of a number of recent attempts to attack the US including the “underwear bomber” and the explosive printers in FedEx airplanes. Anwar al Awlaki, a Yemen-based preacher, is seen as one of the jihadi ideologues who could fill Osama bin Laden’s shoes. Likely targets: Arab world, United States.
5. Punjabi Pakistan
The old Pakistan terror story has shifted from Afghan tribals recruited by Pakistani intelligence to Punjabis joining Tehreek e Taliban or other jihadi groups outside Rawalpindi’s control in the last few years, with Lashkar e Tayyeba being the largest.
The David Headley confessions showed that lower level Lashkar leaders did not care much for taking orders from Rawalpindi or carrying out jihad only against India. A number of his colleagues left Lashkar to move closer to Al Qaeda and begin targeting Pakistan. The slow drift of more Punjabis into the Al Qaeda-Taliban net will be the main terror challenge that will face Pakistan, but that will not be their only target. Likely targets: Pakistan, United States, India.