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Miles Armitage: Africa's jihadist groups the new threat, says Australia's counter-terrorism ambassador

Canberra Times logo Canberra Times 25/05/2014 David Wroe
Fanatic: Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau (centre). © AFP Fanatic: Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau (centre).

Australia's new counterterrorism ambassador has singled out the growth of jihadist groups in Africa as a key concern in the post-Bin Laden era, as global terrorism continues to evolve and morph.

Australia has led a successful move in the United Nations Security Council to choke off funding to Boko Haram, the Nigerian Islamist army that sparked global outrage by kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls.

Miles Armitage, named recently as Australia's ambassador for counterterrorism, said that while al-Qaeda had been battered in the past decade, ''indiscriminate attacks on Westerners'' were still a goal of some jihadist organisations.

''The nature of the threat is evolving and … whilst the capability of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan has definitely been degraded … the threat of particularly Islamist terrorism has become more dispersed, less predictable, and now we're dealing geographically with a number of other areas - eastern Africa, western Africa and the Maghreb,'' he said.

Mr Armitage, who was previously ambassador to East Timor, said the Middle East remained a key area, as did Asia.

He said while the fragmented nature of Islamist groups meant attacks were usually on a smaller scale, plots such as the murder of more than 60 people in Kenya's West Gate shopping centre were ''a pretty awful reminder to us all that the big attacks are not behind us''.

Groups in Africa include Boko Haram, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in the continent's north and Al Shabab in Somalia.

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