Madagascar – Government Instability, Gems and Strategic Location all Lure Al Qaeda

Posted on November 17, 2010

Lemur and offspring in Madagascar

Why should we be concerned what happens in  Madagascar?  It’s an island in the Indian Ocean off the southern coast of East Africa that is most famous for its gemstones and  Lemur population.

The political stability of the island has been of concern for some time now.  There are several factions involved and nothing seems to have been settled between the 2009 coup and the most recent attempt to overthrow the government November 17th.  Things seem quiet tonight but the long-term outlook for Madagascar is clouded and dark.

This beautiful haven for 5% of the world’s plant and animal species a large portion of which cannot be found elsewhere is in danger of becoming the next Yemen.

When Jamal Khalifa was found dead in his gemstone mine in southeastern Madagascar in late January, it was unclear which was more puzzling: the murky circumstances surrounding his death, which his brother Malek emphasized to the press, or the more alarming assertion that he was involved in the African gemstone trade (Asharq al-Awsat, February 1). Jamal Khalifa was a widely-suspected al-Qaeda financier linked to a dizzying array of terrorist operatives, plots and front organizations across the globe. Through fronts established in the Philippines, Khalifa reportedly funded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, and his nephew Ramzi Youssef to execute Operation Bojinka, a plot to simultaneously destroy 12 transpacific airliners bound for the United States from Asian cities. He is notably also credited with the creation of the Abu Sayyaf Group in the Philippines (Manila Times, February 1). Since 9/11, Saudi Arabia reportedly restricted Khalifa, who is also Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law, to the kingdom and the seafood restaurant that he co-owned with his brother Malek in Jeddah. The fact that an al-Qaeda suspect of this profile maintained mining interests in Madagascar and elsewhere raises questions regarding al-Qaeda’s ability to capitalize on ungoverned spaces in southern Africa and beyond for its financing activities. Coincidently, less than a week after Khalifa’s death, Midi Madagaskira, an Antananarivo-based daily,reported that Fazul Mohammed, a Comoros-born al-Qaeda leader, had not only survived a U.S. air strike that targeted him in Somalia, but also had been seen in Majunga, a seaside town in northwest Madagascar [2]. Mohammed allegedly directed the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. If it is true that he found safe passage from Somalia to Madagascar or the Comoros, it strongly suggests that there was an existing support infrastructure there to facilitate his movements. Another possible scenario is that he was directing fighters in Somalia while based in Madagascar or another African country.  []

Al Qaeda is not only involved in covert financing, it is heavily into commodities as its source for its funding. [] In a world in which currencies are unreliable, commodities are not just untraceable, they are the most stable form of funding in the current global war of currencies.

Madagascar bears watching as do other areas around the glob that are unstable and  have strategic importance.

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