Despite Al Sahrawi’s killing, Islamism will not end with raids
by Kamel Abderrahmal

A French drone killed the head of terrorist group Islamic State in the Greater Sahara. Russian privateers are moving into the Sahel. jihadism is an ideology much stronger than any individual and must be fought on the ground.

Paris (AsiaNews) – Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, leader of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (IS-GS), died in a raid carried out by French forces. This represents a major success for the anti-terrorist struggle, French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Wednesday.

Al- Sahrawi was once a member of the Algerian-backed POLISARIO[*] movement, then a very active member of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) Jihadi movement, before joining the IS-GS in May 2015.

As the most dangerous and brutal jihadi group in the Sahel, the IS-GS spares neither civilians nor military, with a foothold in three countries – Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso – whose borders they do not recognise because “imposed by the coloniser”.

For the past few years, he was on France’s list of targets to be eliminated until he was taken out by a drone attack in Mali on 17 August.

This Islamist terror organisation has been responsible for several attacks, like the one in August 2020 in which Al- Sahrawi personally ordered the murder of six French aid workers and their Nigerien guide and driver.

However, many legitimate questions concerning the future of the French military role in the Sahel remain, especially after Macron announced that France was reducing its military presence in this region of Africa, ending its anti-jihadi operation Barkhane in favour of a more selective approach, via more targeted operations in cooperation with local African countries in an international coalition that included European powers.

Things could get even more complicated if talks between Mali’s military rulers and a private Russian military company ended in an agreement. “The possibility of a deal worries the West, especially Paris.”

In a tweet, paying tribute to all the French victims who died for the glory of France against terrorism, the French president wrote: “The Nation tonight thinks of all its heroes who died for France in the Sahel in operations Serval and Barkhane, the bereaved families, all its wounded. Their sacrifice was not in vain. Together with our African, European and American partners, we shall continue this fight.”

France's military commitment to the war against Islamist terrorism is undeniable; however, even though the neutralisation of dangerous and brutal terrorists is good for us, the great struggle remains ideological. 

The history of Islamist terrorism has shown us that their leaders are not as important as their foundational ideology. We must not fall into the trap of believing that Islamist terrorism will stop watching us, threatening us, threatening the peace and stability of the peoples of the Orient, Africa, Asia as well as the West!

Islamism with its multiple definitions does not depend on any specific physical person. The movement’s leaders are not as important as their ideology since they too are beholden to hegemonic and totalitarian ideas – contemporary Nazism. This said, they are often powerful and able to seduce "moderate Islamists".

I put “moderate Islamists” in brackets because I see no difference between the two Islamisms: both militate in one way or another in favour of the re-establishment of the caliphate – especially after the Iranian Revolution which showed it was possible to set up a purely Islamic state based on “Islamic laws”.

[*] POLISARIO, Spanish acronym of Frente Popular de Liberación de Saguía el Hamra y Río de Oro (Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Río de Oro).