Hezbollah in West Africa (Photos reveal the long-arm of Hezbollah)

Posted by W. Thomas Smith Jr. on 23 May 2008 at 12:23 pm UTC

As I and others have reported with increasing frequency over the past few months, terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and Hezbollah are increasingly developing forward operating bases in many of Africa’s “ungoverned” – or poorly governed – regions.

Additionally, these groups – as unlikely allies as they may be – are coordinating their efforts more and more. We’ve seen quite a bit of this in North African countries like Morocco and East African Somalia, wherein captured or hunted Jihadists have been determined to have received tactical training by Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and then received funding and were taught the finer points of bomb-making by Hezbollah in Lebanon (I wrote about this at Human Events and

The disturbing thing about these African bases of operation is that they are frequently being used as launching points for terrorist operations worldwide. Europe – just across the Mediterranean and with large African-emigrant populations – is extremely vulnerable (which may have something to do with the European parliament’s calling for the “disarming of Hezbollah,” yesterday, in the wake of Hezbollah’s political gains in Lebanon while pretty much getting a free pass from the rest of the international community).

We are also piecing together more intelligence related to Middle Eastern terrorist activity in West Africa, which brings us to several photographs received yesterday from one of our sources.

The following images are apparently of Hezbollah activities in Nigeria: Note the Hezbollah flags, the posters of Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah, the Iranian Ayatollahs (One dead, one living; and remember, Iran funds Lebanon-based Hezbollah to the tune of $ one-billion a year.), and the late Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin. Also, pay attention to the Arabic inscription on the reviewing-stand banner (surrounded by the Nation-of-Islam look-alikes). The inscription reads: “Peace to you, Hussein.”

Additional commentary follows images.

After receiving these photos, I forwarded them to Africa expert Dr. J. Peter Pham, who says it is “not surprising,” and provides additional context.

According to Pham:

“I am afraid that there are two blind spots in most of our conventional analysis of militant Islamism in general and its manifestations in Africa in particular. First, we overestimate the Sunni-Shiia divide, while underestimating the militants’ capacity to overcome sectarian differences when offered the opportunity to confront non-Muslims they perceive as hostile. Secondly, we recite textbook definitions about whole regions being traditionally one thing or another without accounting for the possibility of dynamic change. In Africa, for example, we hear constantly that Islam there is Sunni and often even Sufi. True enough historically, but the traditional Sufi turuq ( = proper plural for the singular “tariqa,” brotherhood) are often underreseourced when compared to newer foreign groups with better financing, many of whom are Salafist and even Wahhabi.

“As for Hezbollah’s presence, I am not at all surprised. The Lebanese terrorist group has long made West Africa a center for its financing [see Dr. Pham’s column of two years ago, here]. Furthermore, even before that, I had reported on Iranian influences on Muslims in Nigeria [Pham’s column here]. Last year, a well-known Sunni cleric in Sokoto – the traditional center of Nigerian Islam and seat of the sultanate – by the name of Umuru Danmaishiyya was shot dead in his mosque, purportedly by Shiites angered by his orthodox Sunni denunciations of Shiism. In response, Nigerian security forces demolished the Shiia center belonging to the radicals.

“Elsewhere in West Africa, an Iranian outfit, the Ahlul Bait Foundation, set up an Islamic University College of Ghana in 1988. The president and senior administrators are all Iranian.

“If Iran is involved in the region, it would certainly make sense for its proxy Hezbollah to be, especially since the Lebanese group has an even easier time operating in West Africa given the longstanding presence of a Lebanese Shiia diaspora there.”

More to come.

— Visit W. Thomas Smith Jr. at
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