Are West Africa’s Islamic extremists beginning to coalesce?

In a talk I gave at Demos early last year, I wondered whether Islamic extremists in different parts of West Africa, who had hitherto acted in isolation, might one day join up to become a cohesive pan-regional force.

Now it seems that Al Qaeda in the Maghreb, whose activities have centered on Mauritania, Algeria and Mali, is making efforts to link up with Nigeria’s Boko Haram movement, now imaginatively renamed the Taliban, to create a broad-based West African terror group.

AFP reports that AQIM’s leader has told his Nigerian brothers that, “We are ready to train your sons on how to handle weapons, and will give them all the help they need – men, weapons, ammunition and equipment – to enable them to defend our people and push back the Crusaders.” So far, negotiations remain at a fledgling stage, but the intent is there and, given the region’s notoriously porous borders, so too are the means.