Chapter 8: Mali – intelligence lessons learned?
The situation in the vast swathes of territory in West Africa and the Sahel is complex and the events of the twenty-first century have surprised and confused strategic intelligence analysts in the public and private sectors and open source commentators alike. This confusion has been intensified by the priorities imposed upon governments, international organisations and media by the cataclysmic post-2007 economic crises. However, in terms of the events of the post-2010 period there are several significant – possibly ominous – aspects with regard to terrorism. The first aspect is the initial underestimation of the nature and scale of the commitment necessary for military intervention in Mali. The six indicators mentioned earlier are all revealing as to the long-term nature of the terrorist threat and the under-focusing on terrorism in West Africa. The second aspect is that of proactive intelligence by certain terrorist groups. The AQIM militants in the September 2010 kidnapping in the uranium mining complex had inside knowledge and had infiltrated the installation. Also, as already stated, in the January 2013 AQIM affiliate group attack on the Algerian gas processing plant it was probable that the extremist group had, some time before, penetrated the security arrangements by infiltrating fighters into logistical and local support staff in the catering and accommodation areas. Also, Nigerian customs staff, if not infiltrated, were at least badly intimidated in some border areas. In March 2012 a senior Nigerian customs officer was targeted, and shot dead, in Yobe state, in north-east Nigeria.
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