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ICC Note: The combination of ready access to weapons flowing from Arab Spring states in North Africa, and the fact that the Sahel zone is outside the reach of most of the region’s military and policing capability, have allowed for the formation of a “petri-dish” for the breeding of Islamists. The lawlessness of the Sahel has allowed the groups operating from to zone to conduct operations against Christian and Western targets with near impunity. The effort of the Séléka in CAR is just one example, where the Islamists are attempting to form a Sharia state despite the population being composed mostly of Christians.
10/12/2013  Niger  (The Christian Science Monitor) – “Sahelistan” is what the French foreign minister calls the sub-Saharan zone of Sahel. Al Qaeda-linked groups from places like Mail and Nigeria have been driven into hiding there and hit Western targets. The zone may become a ‘breeding ground’ for terrorists, says the UN Security Council.
Africa’s Sahel belt is a 600-mile-wide semiarid zone stretching from Senegal in the west to Somalia in the east. The vast, seemingly ungovernable terrain has become a sanctuary for Islamist militants.
After the Arab Spring, and then at the end of Muammar Qaddafi’s dictatorship, many hoped for an end to terror in the Sahel.
Instead, weapons spilling out of Libya and ongoing military efforts to drive Al Qaeda-linked groups from places like Mali and Nigeria have hardened Islamist fighters here. This in turn has increased the risk of violence across the region.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has called the area “Sahelistan,” likening it to remote areas in Afghanistan where US troops struggled for years to pin down the Taliban. The French Army in January intervened whole-scale in Mali to drive Islamist radicals out.
The Sept. 21 bloody siege on Nairobi’s Westgate mall was carried out by a Somali-based group called Al Shabab that is in decline and had been little noticed. But by tying up the Kenyan security forces for four days in the nation’s capitol and leaving 61 or more dead, including diplomats and a prominent African-Ghanian poet, Al Shabab, which means, “the youth,” put themselves on the Sahel terror map.
Likewise, the Nigerian radical Islamist Boko Haram group, which acts like a cult, on Sept. 29 carried out another slaughter of the innocent by reportedly killing 50 students sleeping at a state agricultural college. Boko Haram, which translates as “Western education is sinful,” has been on a killing spree this summer that has included dozens of schoolchildren and dozens of moderate Muslims attacked while praying in their mosque.
The Sahel groups are reportedly small but their influence is felt where they are based, in Guinea, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Niger, Mauritania, Somalia, and Sudan. The worry in the West is that extremists will use the Sahel to launch terror attacks overseas.
In May the United Nations Security Council warned that insurgencies here, “if left unchecked, could transform the continent into a breeding ground for extremists and a launch pad for larger-scale terrorist attacks around the world.”