Bulwark Intelligence

Splendid Hotel


Africa Rising; Terrorism on the Continent Too

Terrorism on the continent appears to be on the rise and the recent attack of the Grand Bassam hotel on 13 March 2016, in Ivory Coast was carried out by AQIM using the same tactics as their other two recent hotel attacks in Mali, November 2015 and Burkina Faso January 2016. Attacks on hotels continue to be the choice modus operandi for terrorist organizations in Africa because by nature hotels are soft targets and they attract a constant stream of people. Terrorism on the continent continue to display Africa’s inability to adequately tackle security challenges, and this is detrimental to the economies of the countries on the continent Terrorism experts believe that AQIM’s increase in attacks on hotels have to do with their rivalrous relationship with Islamic State. Ever since ISIS has been successful in grabbing the attention of the world in their attacks against innocent civilians in public places, there has also been an increase in such ‘copycat’ tactics with AQIM and Al Shabab; the other two main terrorist organizations operating in Africa. The idea is to keep carrying out high profile attacks on soft targets with high foreign or expatriate population in order to get a lot of media coverage which helps in fund raising and recruitment for the terrorist organizations. It is for this reason that there continues to be fear of Nigeria’s main terrorist organization Boko Haram, jumping on the same band wagon and carrying out similar attacks in other parts of Nigeria outside of their traditional area of operation in the North East. Terrorist attacks on soft targets across Africa continue to highlight the continent’s vulnerabilities. The head of U.S Africa Command Gen. Rodriguez made a remark to the US Senate Armed Services Committee that “The fight against Al-Shabaab is failing to achieve its objectives because African Union forces are “overstretched” and the Somalia national army suffers “endemic deficiencies”. These sort of attacks continue to display the Africa’s inability to adequately tackle security challenges, and this is detrimental to the economies of the countries on the continent as potential tourists and investors have begun to think twice about opting for the continent as a choice location. What Should the Governments Do About the Increasing Terrorism? When it comes to West Africa, there were warnings of possible plots against hotels in Senegal, Chad and Ivory Coast. Security was beefed up in most of the luxury hotels across these countries but despite these efforts, the Ivory Coast attack still occurred. In 2014, the deputy Chairman of the African Union, Erastus Mwencha, responded to a question about whether African countries have been weak in combating increasing terrorism on the continent. He said these terrorist “attacks are asymmetric war, there is no face to it. So you are dealing with a network that knows each other but you don’t know them”. Defeating terrorists and terrorism on the continent should not be viewed from a helpless point of view. Intelligence organizations can work hard to ensure that individuals in the various terrorist networks are identified, in other words, “the attackers need to be known”. Proactive steps should be taken. “Burying our heads in the sand, hoping that terrorism will go away is not going to work. Nigeria tried it and 7 years later, we are still dealing with Boko Haram.“ African nations need to commit to thwarting the spread of terrorism on the continent by not just disrupting immediate threats, but also dismantling the insurgent networks. It just requires a willing and cooperative government. Terrorists will continue to evolve their tactics to circumvent the effective security defenses of any individual nation. Before the whole continent throws its hands up begging for help from the “international community” it would be best they all come together and see how they can help each other in defeating this fast spreading threat of terrorism in Africa. That is why African nations must begin to put aside political squabbles, work around legal constraints, and overcome financial grudging, and do more in the area of collaboration on security, intelligence and defense matters of the continent. Just as multi-lateral trade agreements exist among the various regional countries, so also security and intelligence sharing agreements need to be solidified among nations.  


From Mali, to Burkina Faso; What Every Nigerian Needs to Know

AQIM was responsible for the Mali and Burkina Faso hotel attack in November 2015 and January 2016, pointing to a new trend of active shooting incidents in public places. On 20 November 2015, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) attacked a Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako, Mali which led to the death of more than 20 people. The hotel is said to be located in one of Bamako’s wealthy neighborhoods which is also home to government ministries and diplomats. Less than two months later, on Friday 15 January 2016, around 8.30pm, young men started shooting sporadically at a Café and then went next door to the Splendid hotel in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso and began killing everyone in sight. This attack led to the death of at least 28 people and AQIM again claimed responsibility for these attacks. There are some trends and tactics used by these attackers that are worth pointing out. First of all, the attackers chose to go for targets that were frequently visited by a host of foreign nationals. The Radisson Blu, Bamako had Chinese nationals from a construction company, there was an American aid worker, Air France crew, Turkish Airlines staff, Indian nationals and so on. The Splendid Hotel, Ouagadougou, also housed a number of foreign nationals, many of which were specifically targeted by the armed militants. Among the victims of this raid were six Canadian nationals, two French nationals, two Swiss citizens, a Dutch volunteer worker and an American missionary. In Bamako, the militants released victims if they were able to recite a verse in the Quran. While in the Burkina Faso hotel attack, they targeted foreign looking individuals and went back over the bodies of foreigners, tapped their feet to see if they were still alive, and if they showed any signs of being alive, they were shot again. The terrorists have decided that such hotels with a large population of multinationals are prime targets because it allows the attackers get the effect of killing foreign nationals without them having to deal with the extra fortified security of foreign embassies. It also garners the terrorists the international media coverage they seek, which gives them the appearance of being ubiquitous and elusive at the same time; everywhere yet unseen.   What does this mean for you in Nigeria? Despite the fact that most terrorist groups operate in different parts of the world, call themselves different names, and carry out their attacks through different means. The truth is that they all seek the same result which is to kill as many innocent people as possible. Some terrorist groups such as AQIM mostly target foreign nationals and non-Muslims, while groups such as Boko Haram and ISIS target just about everyone. That being said, if you are staying in or visiting hotels, malls, places of worship, cinemas and other soft targets that have not done anything to upgrade and increase their security measures, then you need to re-think your decisions. And if you run, own or manage any of such public facilities, you need to take active steps in installing and implementing security procedures and equipment. Don’t Rest on Your Laurels Have you been in sitting in traffic, when you hear a vehicle siren with flashing lights, and then you see something that started off as a convoy of two vehicles, suddenly turn into a convoy of a whole bunch of vehicles taking advantage of the privilege of the escort vehicles? This is something that happens a lot in Nigerian cities and as it turns out, is a major security threat. In the Bamako attack, the gunmen had previously carried out surveillance and noticed that vehicles with diplomatic license plates were given preferential treatment at the hotel’s security checkpoint. So they took advantage of this and tailgated a car with diplomatic license plates, forcefully gaining entrance into the hotel’s compound. Upon gaining close proximity to their bombing targets, the Bamako militants, detonated grenades, opened fire at security guards before entering the hotel and beginning their killing spree and taking hostage about 170 people. In Ouagadougou, the attackers used the same tactic by torching cars parked outside the hotel and firing in the air before entering the hotel. This tactic serves to eliminate the security guards protecting the entrances. Secondly, it gives the perception to those inside the hotel that the attack is outside, preventing guests from escaping from the hotel and making them believe that staying inside the hotel is safer. Unbeknownst to the guests, the real threat is being inside the hotel. What should you do in such a situation? Although these events have been coined terrorist attacks, the scenario resembles something known as an “active shooter” incident. This is a security threat being experienced across the U.S. in which gunmen casually walk into public areas and open fire on unsuspecting individuals. Thus security personnel have developed an awareness strategy on what to do if you find yourself in such a situation. The first thing you should do is to try and escape the premises if safe to do so. If you are unable to flee the premises, the next thing you should do is to find a place to hide. If you are in a hotel room, put furniture or other solid obstruction behind the door, switch off the light, put your phones on silent and hide behind thick surfaces that can prevent bullet penetration. And finally, if you are unable to leave the premises and you are unable to hide, you must muster up some courage and fight. An active shooter aims to kill anyone in sight and cause maximum casualties, so you must do whatever you can to protect yourself. How should security forces respond? History has shown that waiting till the building has been fully surrounded by security personnel before entering and engaging the shooters is no longer effective. A case in point was the 2008 Mumbai attacks, whereby while the security forces were waiting to enter the premises, the attackers were going from

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