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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Africa Overview

Patterns of Global Terrorism
Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism
May 21, 2002

A victim of the 1998 US Embassy bombing in Nairobi, Kenya, reads a newspaper (Reuters copyrighted photo)

"The Organization of African Unity (OAU) expresses to the Government and people of the United States of America the full solidarity and the deepest condolence of the OAU and the entire people of Africa over this tragedy which affected not only the people of the USA but humanity as a whole."

OAU Communique
20 September 2001

There was nearly universal condemnation of the September 11 attacks on the United States among Sub-Saharan African governments. These governments also pledged their support to the war against terrorism. In addition to bilateral cooperation with the United States and the global Coalition, multilateral organizations such as the Organization for African Unity and the Southern African Development Community have committed themselves to fighting terrorism. The shock produced by the September 11 attacks and renewed international cooperation to combat global terrorism is producing a new readiness on the part of African leaders to address the problems of international terrorism. Africa's increased cooperation may help counter the persistent threat and use of terrorism as an instrument of violence and coercion against civilians. Most terrorist attacks in Africa stem from internal civil unrest and spillover from regional wars as African rebel movements and opposition groups employ terrorist tactics in pursuit of their political, social, or economic goals. Countries where insurgent groups have indiscriminately employed terrorist tactics and attacked civilians include the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia and Sierra Leone. International terrorist organizations with Islamic ties, including al-Qaida and Lebanese Hizballah, have a presence in Africa and continue to exploit Africa's permissive operating environment—porous borders, conflict, lax financial systems, and the wide availability of weapons—to expand and strengthen their networks. Further, these groups are able to flourish in "failed states" or those with weak governments that are unable to monitor the activities of terrorists and their supporters within their borders. Press reports also indicate that terrorists may be using the illicit trade in conflict diamonds both to launder money and to finance their operations.

Sudan, one of the seven state sponsors of terrorism, is discussed in the state sponsorship section of this report.

Ivorians crowd around a table to light candles in front of US Embassy  in Abidjan, C�te d'Ivoire on 9/20/01 to honor victims of the 9/11 attacks. Bouquets of flowers are seen among the candles. (AFP copyrighted photo)Angola

Angola made strides in combating terrorism since the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. In late November, the National Assembly passed a resolution calling for Angola to participate in regional and international efforts to combat terrorism, to include sharing intelligence, technical expertise, and financial information, and cooperating on legal issues. President dos Santos publicly backed US military actions and supports the Organization for African Unity resolutions against terrorism.

For more than two decades, Angola has been plagued by the protracted civil war between the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) and the Angolan Government. UNITA is believed to have been responsible for several brutal attacks on civilian targets in 2001. Unidentified militants— suspected of being UNITA rebels—ambushed a train killing 256 persons and injuring 161 others in August. Later that month, armed men fired a missile at a passing bus, killing approximately 55 and wounding 10. UNITA rebels are also suspected of attacking a farm in May, killing one person, wounding one, and kidnapping 50 others.

During 2001, violence from the Angolan civil war again spilled over into neighboring Namibia. The Angolan Government, operating on the invitation of the Namibian Government, pursued UNITA rebels into Namibia. Border clashes resulted in several attacks. In May, rebels attacked a village killing one person and wounding one other. Earlier in the year, armed men entered a village, abducting eight persons who were taken to Angola and held hostage.

(On 4 April, 2002, shortly after the death of Jonas Savimbi, UNITA leaders signed a cease-fire
agreement with the Government of Angola.)


Alternate Means of Terrorist Funding? Diamonds and Tanzanite

Several media reports made the claim that the al-Qaida network has made millions of dollars from diamonds mined by rebels in Sierra Leone, either by trading them or using them to launder money. Revolutionary United Front (RUF) officials were alleged to have sold millions of dollars in diamonds to Usama Bin Ladin's al-Qaida terrorist network.

Similarly, allegations were made linking the sale of tanzanite to al-Qaida financing. Press reports claimed that a former personal secretary to Bin Ladin kept a diary detailing al-Qaida's use of tanzanite to help finance its operations for the past several years.

A subsequent claim was made that other radical Islamic groups (including the Lebanon-based Hizballah) transferred millions of dollars made from Congolese diamond sales to their organizations back home.

We continue to investigate these claims. The US Government also is cooperating with the United Nations, diamond-producing countries, and diamond-importing countries to develop a certification system for diamonds to prevent "conflict diamonds" from entering the international trading system.


Djibouti pledged early, strong, and consistent support for the US-led Coalition in the global war on terrorism. Djibouti also hosts Coalition forces from France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Djibouti closed financial networks suspected of funneling funds for terrorist operations that operated there and issued a Djiboutian executive order that commits the country to cooperate fully with US counterterrorist financial measures.


Ethiopia has been another strong supporter of the campaign against terror. The Ethiopian response was immediate and vocal following the September 11 attacks. Ethiopia also has shut down terrorist financial networks operating in its territory. Ethiopia continues to cooperate in examining potential terrorist activity in the region, including in Somalia.


Kenya already had suffered from an al-Qaida attack on the US Embassy in Nairobi in August 1998. Kenya remained a key ally in the region, implementing new measures to impose asset freezes and other financial controls, offering to cooperate with the United States to combat terrorism, and leading the current regional effort toward national reconciliation in Somalia. Kenya is a party to 10 of the 11 antiterrorism conventions and is a signatory to the newest, the 1999 UN Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism.Two aid workers -- a man and woman -- are greeted at Nairobi airport on 28 March 2001, after being released by gunmen in Mogadishu, Somalia.  Four other aid workers continued to be held hostage. (Reuters copyrighted photo)


Nigeria has strongly supported US antiterrorism efforts around the world as well as the military action in Afghanistan. Nigeria led diplomatic efforts in the UN and the Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS) and in the battle against terrorism. The Nigerian Government has drafted legislation— the Anti-Terrorism, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act—that contains explicit criminal sanctions against terrorism and its financing. The Government of Nigeria is committed to preventing its territory—home to Africa's largest Muslim population—from becoming a safehaven for Islamic extremists.


Senegal has been a leader in the African response to the attacks of September 11, with President Abdoulaye Wade's proposed African Pact Against Terrorism. President Wade stressed this issue with many of the continent's leaders during a two-day conference in Dakar in October 2001 and is energizing countries to join the fight via the Organization of African Unity/African Union. The Senegal Central Bank and regional banks based in Dakar have modified regulations to restrict terrorist funding. Senegal has also created a regional counterterrorism intelligence center, using assets of its security and intelligence services along with assistance from the United States. Senegal plans to ratify all remaining UN conventions against terrorism in the near future.


Somalia, a nation with no central government, represents a potential breeding ground as well as safehaven for terrorist networks. Civil war, clan conflict, and poverty have combined to turn Somalia into a "failed state," with no one group currently able to govern the entire country, poor or nonexistent law enforcement, and an inability to monitor the financial sector. Some major factions within Somalia have pledged to fight terrorism. However one indigenous group, al-Ittihad al-Islami (AIAI), is dedicated to creating an Islamic state in Somalia, has carried out terrorist acts in Ethiopia, and may have some ties to al-Qaida. AIAI remains active in several parts of Somalia.

In July, gunmen in Mogadishu attacked a World Food Program convoy, killing six persons and wounding several others. In March, extremists attacked a Medecins Sans Frontieres medical charity facility, killing 11 persons, wounding 40, and taking nine hostages. The hostages were later released.

The need for cooperation among Somalia's neighbors in the Horn of Africa is obvious, given the long borders shared with Somalia by Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya. These countries have— individually and, in cooperation with the United States—taken steps to close their ports of entry to potential terrorists, deny use of their banking systems to transfer terrorist-linked assets, and to bring about the peaceful reconciliation and long-term stability that will remove the "failed-state" conditions currently found in Somalia.

South Africa

South Africa expressed its unreserved condemnation for the 11 September terrorist attacks on the United States. The Government has offered its support for US-led diplomatic efforts to fight terrorism. South Africa also supports the Organization for African Unity's counterterrorism resolution. South Africa continued to experience some incidents of urban terrorism in 2001.


President Yoweri Museveni publicly condemned the 11 September attacks and called upon the world to act together against terrorism. Two insurgent groups—the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in Northern Uganda and the Allied Democratic Forces in Western Uganda—continued military operations aimed at undermining the Kampala government in 2001—resulting in several terrorist attacks that injured foreign nationals. In June, three bombs exploded simultaneously in public areas in Kampala killing one and wounding 19 persons. Suspected LRA rebels ambushed a Catholic Relief Services vehicle in September, killing five persons and wounding two others.

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