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Al-Qaeda gets more active, competes with Islamic State

January 22, 19:25 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© EPA/YAHYA ARHAB

MOSCOW, January 22. /TASS/. Global terrorist enterprise commonly known around the world as Al-Qaeda, which faded into the background for a while after the United States liquidated its leader, Osama bin Laden, in 2011, and which also lost much of its publicity to the terrorist Islamic State, has begun to manifest itself ever more often again of late. At the same time, as analysts believe, Al-Qaeda is a rival of the Islamic State in many respects, so the possibility an international terrorist monster may emerge in the near future is not on the current agenda. Russia, they say, should first and foremost beware the risk of Al-Qaeda’s growing activity in Afghanistan, where it supports Islamic groups that are determined to topple secular governments in Central Asia, near Russia’s borders.

Al-Qaeda has regained its influence in Afghanistan, the country’s president, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, said on Thursday. "In early 2015 there were optimistic assumptions about the fact that its power greatly reduced. Now it is not so," said the Afghan leader in an interview to the CNN network. He noted that terrorists were coming to Afghanistan from many countries including Russia, China, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Arab states in the Middle East.

In the first days of 2015 Al-Qaeda "left its trace" in Pakistan, Indonesia, Cameroon, Somalia and Afghanistan. All these countries saw terrorist attacks. Hostage-taking in Ouagadougou — the capital of Bourkina Fasso — was the worst one. The attack claimed 28 lives.

"Just two or three years ago Al-Qaeda was rather passive in Afghanistan. But now, that it has entered into competition with the Islamic State, it has got far more active," the director of the Modern Afghanistan Studies Centre, Omar Nessar, has told TASS. "The organization incorporates groups mostly focused on the countries of Central Asia, in other words, Russia’s allies in the collective Security Treaty organization. Naturally, the upsurge in Al-Qaeda’s activities, in particular, in the north of Afghanistan, poses a major threat to Russia."

After Bin Laden’s death many analysts were predicting that Al-Qaeda was gone never to return, the leading research fellow at the Oriental Studies Institute under the Russian Academy of Sciences, Vladimir Sotnikov, has told TASS. "The more so since there has emerged a new terrorist organization - the Islamic State. But the Islamic State’s successes do not mean that Al-Qaeda, which is competing with the IS, will disappear altogether. Its cells will continue to crop up in other regions, like the heads of a multi-headed dragon."

"There is no big ideological difference between the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda. Both consist of radical Islamists, although the Islamic State is a far harsher, more structured and far crueler network. Yet the emergence of a powerful monster of international terrorism in the foreseeable future is hardly possible. They are competing for financial flows and for new potential members they wish to recruit."

Russia, Sotnikov said, is struggling against Al-Qaeda’s influence first and foremost within the Collective Security Treaty Organization by providing military assistance to Tajikistan and other Central Asian countries. "Another risk for Russia is Al-Qaeda’s militants may start returning home some day, and in that sense it is in no way different from the Islamic State."

"Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State do have certain disagreements, although their aims and tasks look alike," the leading research fellow at the Institute of the World Economy and International Relations IMEMO under the Russian Academy of Sciences, Dina Malysheva, told TASS. "They are competing, particularly so, in Syria, although both organizations are opposed against secular regimes, and press for the establishment of the Islamic paradigm. Their aims are the same, but organizationally they are different. "Al-Qaeda is like an octopus drifting from region to region."

Al-Qaeda threatens Russia first and foremost through the groups of radical nationalists from the Central Asian countries operating in Afghanistan, Malysheva agrees. "The worst threat comes from the groups of ethnic Uzbeks and Tajiks, who at different times in the past fled to Afghanistan. Their current aim is to stage a comeback to topple the secular governments in their home countries. Al-Qaeda finances them and supplies them with weapons. Another major risk is Al-Qaeda sponsors Europe-and Russia-bound drug trafficking as one of its major sources of finance.

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