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By Fareed Zakaria
According to the U.S. Treasury, the average ransom for a Western hostage held by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in 2011 was $5.4 million. This sort of terrorism pays richly in this world, not the next.
Moktar Balmoktar leads one of several groups in the region that are loosely affiliated with al-Qaeda. Iyad Ag Ghaly leads another…Ghaly is a larger-than-life figure who has spent long years fighting not for Islam but for the rights of his ethnic group, the Tuaregs. He created Ansar Dine, which means “supporters of religion” when he was passed over for leadership of the main Tuareg rebel movement. Ansar Dine soon became an effective and brutal militia.
What conclusions can we draw from all this? These groups are largely composed of local thugs with longstanding, local grievances that often have very little to do with global Islamic jihad. Terrorism is good business for them.
While their own causes have lost support at home, they have latched on to the al Qaeda brand in the hope of enhancing their appeal and, perhaps crucially, gaining greater global attention.
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