East African Countries Likely Al Qaeda Targets, Says Report

Published on Wednesday 5th January 2011

East Africa remains a fertile ground for terrorism, says a new report. The report by a Maplecroft, a UK-based risk advisory consultancy, finds that Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania are all at risk of being targeted by terrorist groups.

The group puts Uganda among countries that are top targets of Al Qaeda or other regional extremist groups like Al Shabaab of Somalia.

Other countries in this category of "extreme risk" are Somalia, Pakistan, Algeria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Israel, Yemen, the United States and Indonesia, among others.

Kenya is rated as "high risk" while Tanzania, though it is put under "low risk" countries, is considered by virtue of its proximity to Somalia a potential target.

East Africa has experienced multiple grenade attacks and two deadly bombings over the past six months.

On July 11, explosions at two pubs in Kampala where football fans were watching the World Cup final killed 83 people and injured scores of others.

The most recent was an accidental explosion in Nairobi that killed the man who was trying to smuggle a grenade on to a Kampala-bound bus.

This incident, with its minimal loss of life, would have passed under the radar of the international community had it not been that it involved, directly or indirectly, the three senior countries forming the East African Community.

The grenade, according to Kenya Police Commissioner Matthew Iteere, was in the possession of a Tanzanian national, Albert Olando Mulanda, and he is thought to have been heading to Uganda, to presumably detonate it there or on the bus itself, which was full of Ugandan nationals.

Uganda has become a particular target of Al Shabaab terror attacks in retaliation for the presence of Ugandan troops in Somalia, who make up the bulk of the African Union Mission in Somalia, Amisom, sent there to bolster the fragile Transitional Federal Government.

Somalia, which has been without a government for almost two decades, occupies the top position among the "extreme risk" countries, and states neighbouring Somalia appear to be at serious risk of being the foremost targets, according to the report, titled Terrorism Risk Index 2010.

Kenya, the only country in the EAC that shares a border with Somalia, has witnessed a number of grenade explosions in the recent past; authorities have blamed an influx of explosives from their Horn of Africa neighbour.

The Index assesses countries' safety from terror. Investors use such reports to decide where to put their investments; with this ranking, East African countries might suffer an investor-drought in the near future.

Maplecroft chief executive officer Alyson Warhurst confirmed this on the company's website, saying businesses were being targeted in terrorism prone areas and that it was essential to carry out such field studies.

"For business, assessing exposures to terrorism is becoming increasingly necessary," Prof Warhurst said.

East Africa could have earned its ranking by virtue of the number of attacks it has suffered over the period (June 2009 to June 2010) the study was carried out.

"The index looked at terrorism-related activities from June 2009 to June 2010 to assess the frequency of terrorist incidents and the intensity of attacks, which includes the number of victims per attack and the chances of mass casualties occurring," said the report.

The index also includes a historical parameter assessing the number of attacks between 2007 and 2009 and looks at whether a country is at risk from a long-standing militant group operating there.

The report comes at a time when EAC is preparing a security protocol to tackle terrorism in the region.

The chairperson of the EAC Council of Ministers, Hafsa Mossi, said recently that the protocol to fight "global terrorists including Al Shabaab insurgents" has been finalised but needs further deliberations before adoption.

"We will very soon have a protocol on security issues; the protocol will be discussed during the forthcoming extraordinary summit of EAC Heads of State in April 2011," Mr Mossi was quoted by Xinhua, a global news outlet, last week.

The Maplecroft report, which also sought to clarify the meaning of the terrorism as "incidents in which sub-national or clandestine groups or individuals deliberately attack civilians or non-combatants (including military personnel and assets outside war zones and war-like settings)," did not see leading economies such as France, the United Kingdom and Canada as potential "high risk' targets.



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