Counter-Terrorism: The Other Terrorists

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February 4, 2006: Islamic terrorists get most of the media attention, but there are other groups out there who are doing some pretty impressive damage. For example, there are ethnic terrorists in Nigeria that are trying to shut down the national oil production. The reason is simple, money. The tribes in the oil producing region have not got much to show for all the damage oil production has done. The oil leaves, and very little money comes back. While millions of dollars worth of oil is stolen each month (by tapping into pipelines), that has only provided the locals with better weapons and transportation. This has led to some more ambitious tribal groups to seek to shut down all production, as a way of extracting better terms from the government. The terror in this case is directed at the oil production infrastructure, and the people who run it. The staff includes a lot of foreigners, who are increasingly subject to kidnapping. Just the threat of that increases the expense of trying to protect the foreign workers, and scares off some of them. The terrorists groups have also taken advantage of better knowledge of how the oil production (drilling and movement via pipeline to ships) works. Many locals work for the oil companies, and technical details have become available to anyone who will spend time with the oil workers, and buy a few drinks (or spend more money, and outright bribe the oil workers for information.) The Niger River Delta, where the oil is, has lots of waterways. The terrorists have speedboats, and an intimate knowledge of the local geography. The terrorists have developed tactics that see speedboats full of gunmen quickly hitting a target, and then getting away into the swampy waterways. The raiders have honed their skills while committing other crimes, and the police and military have usually come up short when pursuing the attackers. The money the oil gangs have has also given them access to explosives, and the ability to destroy pipelines and other oil facilities. This extortion campaign has just begun, but the government is already talking about asking for terms, and cutting a deal.

Baluchi tribesmen in southwest Pakistan are trying to do the same thing with local natural gas production. The Pakistani security forces, so far, have prevented the tribesmen from making much progress. In other parts of Africa, oil installations are also under attack by outnumbered, or outgunned, terrorist groups. Terror works, but only if you apply enough of it and the local police are unable to respond effectively.

Not all terrorists are willing to compromise, and just go after the money. In Nepal, there is a communist movement, calling themselves Maoists (after the radical communist movement of the 1960s, when Chinese rule Mao Zse Dong sought to "purify" the country.) The Cambodian Khmer Rouge were the first copy-cat Maoists, and they killed over a million of their countrymen in the 1970s. The Nepalese Maoists are using terror to build an army of rural youngsters, much like the Khmer Rouge did. The Nepalese are trying to run the government forces out of the countryside. Then they plan to surround the cities and starve them out. The Nepalese Maoists insist they are no Khmer Rouge, but simply want to establish a communist dictatorship so that they can solve social problems. But they are running into resistance from people who don't trust any Maoists, and know what happened in Cambodia. Meanwhile, the Maoist tactics are working.

There area also Maoist groups in India, but they are faced with larger numbers of police and soldiers. Around the world, there are many more terrorists who are basically running extortion campaigns. But in these cases, the government uses its larger resources to obtain larger forces. The big losers are usually the civilians in the area, who end up being terrorized by both sides.

One thing that distinguishes these other terror groups is that they are local, and have no interest in going international, like al Qaeda. As a result, the United States is not acutely interested in dealing with them. But where they do operate, these terrorist groups are as destructive and disruptive as outfits like al Qaeda.

 


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