A National Counter Terrorism Center terrorism bulletin from October 2009 makes the argument that highlighting al Qaeda racism could deter black African recruits, thus shedding a light on a recent charge by the White House that al Qaeda is racist, as first reported by ABC News earlier this month.
The Oct. 19, 2009 “National Terrorism Bulletin,” obtained by ABC News, is headlined “Highlighting AQIM’s Racism Could Deter Black African Recruits.”
AQIM is an acronym for Al Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb, a terrorist group based in Algeria that the NCTC says was “originally formed in 1998 as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), a faction of the Armed Islamic Group, which was the largest and most active terrorist group in Algeria. The GSPC was renamed in January 2007 after the group officially joined al-Qa‘ida in September 2006. The GSPC had close to 30,000 members at its height, but the Algerian Government’s counterterrorism efforts have reduced the group’s ranks to fewer than 1,000.”
The NCTC concluded that a “strategic communications campaign that spotlights the cultural and racial insensitivities” that AQIM “holds towards blacks in North and West Africa probably would hinder the group’s growing efforts to attract black recruits in those areas. Widespread discrimination against black Africans is a contentious issue in North and West Africa, particularly in regions where slavery still exists…”
The bulletin says that some recruits “claimed that AQIM was clearly racist against some black members from West Africa because they were only sent against lower-level targets.”
Moreover, the bulletin reports that AQIM leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar in August 2009 stated “he wanted to attract black African recruits because they would agree more readily than Arabs to becoming suicide bombers and because poor economic and social conditions made them ripe for recruitment.”
On July 13, President Obama commented on the Uganda bombings by Al Shabbab, a terrorist group in Somalia that has ties to al Qaeda, telling the South African Broadcasting Corporation that, “what you've seen in some of the statements that have been made by these terrorist organizations is that they do not regard African life as valuable in and of itself.”
Elaborating on the president’s comments, a White House official told ABC News that the message was: "al Qaeda is a racist organization that treats black Africans like cannon fodder and does not value human life."
The NCTC analyst suggested that “highlighting AQIM’s preferential treatment of Arabs and exploitation of blacks probably would resonate with the local black populations. Some black Africans probably would be receptive to messages comparing AQIM’s treatment of black Africans to the condition of slave castes in their countries. … Nearly 500,000 black Mauritanians, 43,000 black Nigerians, and 7,000 black Malians are enslaved from birth, often by Arabs or white Moors.”
– Jake Tapper