Combating a common threat

Updated: 2013-09-25 07:58

By He Wenping (China Daily)

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Attack by Somali extremists in Kenya shows there must be greater international cooperation to fight terrorism

The terrorist attack on an upscale shopping mall popular among affluent Kenyans and foreigners in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, on Saturday, killed at least 62 people, including a Chinese citizen, and wounded more than 170 others. The Somali militant group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the attack, which was the most deadly terrorist attack in Kenya since the bombing of the United States embassy in 1998 that killed 213 people.

However, the terrorist attack should not be viewed as an isolated event. Al-Shabab carried out its first cross-border bomb attack in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, in 2010, but since the Kenyan government sent troops to Somalia in October 2011 to help the Somali transitional government pursue al-Shabab militants, the group has made Kenya a target and repeatedly threatened attacks on Kenyan soil if Nairobi did not pull its troops out of Somalia. In fact, al-Shabab has been responsible for a number of terrorist attacks in Kenya between October 2011 and March 2013, which resulted in 60 casualties.

After formally joining al-Qaida in February 2012, the Somali al-Shabab, taking advantage of the unrest in North Africa, has strengthened its collaboration with al-Qaida in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb and the Boko Haram militants in Nigeria, and the three African Islamic extremist groups are seeking to combine with various anti-government forces at home and abroad to use a variety of destructive and terror means to undermine domestic and regional peace and stability.

The collaboration of different terrorist groups and the growing scale and intensity of their terror attacks should sound the alarm for stability and security in Africa, and African authorities should seek new cooperation strategies in response to the changes in terrorist activities.

African countries and countries in other regions subject to terrorist activities should remain on high alert for signs of affiliation and cooperation between existing or potential anti-government forces and foreign extremist groups.

Meanwhile, relevant national and regional organizations need to strengthen their counterterrorism cooperation and take targeted measures to strengthen security in terms of border management and control; intelligence gathering, screening and sharing; solving terrorist cases collectively and improving preventive mechanisms against terrorism at both the national and regional level, so as to build a collective security network against terrorism.

In addition, the international community bears the responsibility and obligation to provide practical and effective assistance to support the counterterrorism efforts of African countries. This support should include funds and technical guidance, equipment supply and personnel training, but also, more importantly, intelligence and information sharing.

When it comes to terrorist attacks and the anti-terror campaign, no country can afford to stand idly by. The victims of the Nairobi terrorist attack were not only Kenyans, but also citizens from the US, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, China and other countries.

In China's western border area, the three evil forces of terrorism, separatism, and extremism have been evident in two violent incidents this year, which also calls for enhanced international cooperation. China's national legislature, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, adopted two pacts on anti-terrorism cooperation among the Shanghai Cooperation Organization members in June. One on the procedures for organizing joint anti-terrorism drills among the SCO members and the other on the procedures for carrying out joint anti-terrorism actions in the territory of SCO members. In July, China and Iran signed an agreement on security cooperation to strengthen their bilateral cooperation to combat terrorism and drug-related crimes. But more such collaborative efforts are needed to bring an end to the scourge of terrorism.

The attack in Nairobi has once again shown that extremist organizations know no borders, and countries must work together and strengthen their cooperation to combat terrorism. The narrow-minded concept of not sharing counterterrorism intelligence should be abandoned.

The author is a senior fellow with the Chahar Institute and a researcher with the Institute of West Asian and African Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

(China Daily 09/25/2013 page8)