Africa warned of ‘very real’ extremist threat

Posted on September 9, 2014 11:26 am

Africa’s top spy warned of the “very real threat” from extremists a fortnight ago, and now an American Think Tank claims the security challenges for agents will dramatically change over the next decade, as they provided a rare glimpse into the agencies work in a report designed to raise public awareness about the intelligence community role in fighting terror in sub saharan Africa. They said the Nairobi’s Westgate attacks, Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria, Al Qaeda affiliates in the Sahara and continuous bombings in Somalia, Kenya and Tanzania among others has redefined how African spies work.Those events had seen security agencies across the African regions intensify their focus on the “very real threat” posed by organisations like Boko Haram, Al Shabaab and their affiliates. The Think Tank report says there was now “a web of links between extremists from East Africa to West Africa, to the Central Africa, to the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen. The intention is to conduct mass casualty attacks against selected countries that remains very real.Many of these planned attacks are being conceived in places remote from African cities especially in Somalia. The threats had seen security agencies in East Africa evolve from “small, essentially regional body vitally focused on the political dissent into a larger, geographically dispersed organisation” that liases with other regional and foreign intelligence services to fight extremism. Security forces in the region are working with foreign partners and are being closely involved with the arrest and detention of dozens of terrorists in East Africa region over the past five years including in recent months.

At their heart, the regional spookies have a cadre of highly trained intelligence officers who recruit and run agents to neutralise the dreaded Somali insurgents and terror networks. According to the Think Tank report, the agencies have filed thousands of reports annually covering everything from “political developments, economic growth, defence modernisation, and social cohesion in several countries, to terrorist and insurgent planning.While terrorism remained a major worry, cyber security had also become a “rapidly evolving and potentially serious threat” to national security, report added.“Government departments and agencies, together with corporate organisations in Africa, have been subject to concerted efforts by external actors seeking to infiltrate sensitive computer networks,” report said.The report gave no examples, but the computers of Africa’s ministers, embassies, foreign and local plus sensitive organisations were reported last year to have been hacked.The authors have described African government and private networks as being under “continuous threat” of cyber espionage.The good news is that considerable resources are now being invested by the government to counter this threat and harden the defenses of departments and agencies.

Contador Harrison