Lines in the Sand
Are a series of separate conflicts across the Sahara and Sahel regions of Africa part of a wider Jihadi challenge? With the the fall of Gaddafi in Libya, vast stockpiles of unguarded weapons were suddenly available. In January 2013, armed extremists in Mali crossed a line in the sand by advancing south, only to provoke a French military riposte. The Islamists were dispersed - but they were far from beaten. Across the edge of the Sahara, a large number of other violent, Islamist-related incidents followed or came into focus. One of the leading militants in Mali - Mochtar Bel Mochtar - audaciously attacked a BP oil installation in southern Algeria. Jihadis attacked a uranium mine and a military barracks in Mali’s neighbour, Niger. Suicide bombers began operating in both countries for the first time. And the conflict in Northern Nigeria intensified. The Boko Haram group, which has reported links to the Mali insurgents, occupied significant parts of the most populous country in the region. The lines in the Saharan sand are much broader than we thought - and they are shifting.
The BBC’s International Development Correspodnent Mark Doyle gives listeners an aural picture of this new battleground, and investigates what the fighting is really about. He asks if there are direct links - or co-ordination - between the various Islamist groups and how worried the rest of the world should be.