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War on Terror (12 Mar 2012 NewAgeIslam.Com)
Fearing Death as an al-Qaeda Captive


By Robert Fowler


March 11, 2012


Robert Fowler describes his Niger ordeal


In December 2008, I was making my third trip to Niger as the United Nations Special Envoy, attempting to broker a peace between the government and Tuareg rebel factions in the north.


One Sunday, two weeks before Christmas, my colleague, Louis Guay, and I were returning to the capital, Niamey, in a UN vehicle when a truck passed us, slewed in front and forced us to a stop.


Two AK47s were aimed at the face of our driver, and within the blink on an eye all three of us were torn from our seats and thrown into the back of their truck. The whole grab took perhaps 40 seconds.


Thus began our 56-hour descent into hell, a 1,000km off-road nightmare into the middle of the Sahara desert. Twelve hours into that appalling journey, we stopped for a couple of hours rest.


As I paced back and forth, the sentry, a young Senegalese, looked up from where he was making tea and asked, "Have you figured out who we are yet?"


Refusing to acknowledge the dawning reality, I shook my head and he spat: "We are al-Qaeda," enjoying the effect as the bottom fell out of my world.


Three days later, we were ushered toward a large, dark tent, and when I saw the assembled video equipment, I despaired at the thought of my family watching a YouTube video of our beheading. Instead, we recorded a message, in which I stated that we had been captured by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and urged the UN and the government of Canada to bend every effort to secure our release and - as instructed - warned them to avoid violence in any effort to win our freedom.


We then settled uncomfortably into the rhythm of our desert captivity, but from the outset it was made excruciatingly clear by the 31 members of the group which held us, that as representatives of the hated United Nations, we were "prisoners of war" and not some random targets of opportunity.


We had spent five days reaching their operations area deep in the desert, remained in the first "camp" for 56 days and then spent the final 68 days shuttling vast distances among 23 different camps. A camp, though, was simply a place in the sand where a thin tree might offer a little shade from the unrelenting sun. We were always held in the open: no buildings, tents, furniture, or lavatories.


There were venomous snakes and scorpions and wild dogs, hyenas, and a variety of biting insects, and awful food; but the greatest threat to our lives was so evidently from the two-legged monsters who held us. Indeed, there was hardly a moment when I didn't anticipate it would end with my head being sawn off.


They were the most single-minded group of young men I have ever encountered. Our captors had no desire for cool sunglasses, no interest in aping the antics of film stars or footballers, no passion for sports or music; their only concern was pleasing their jealous and stern God. They would often explain how the Prophet had said that 99 out of 100 would not make it to paradise, but their place beside those rivers of milk and honey was assured for they were fighting Allah's fight and would soon, they hoped (as did I) be occupying the house of the mujahedeen in paradise. At one point one of them thrust his rifle at me, saying: "Kill me now, I'm ready for paradise."


Kidnappings of Westerners have fuelled debate among securocrats as to whether our AQIM captors might simply be bandits flying an Islamic flag of convenience. I know that to be the wrong answer. Our kidnappers were utterly focused religious zealots who believed absolutely in their cause. They sought to expel Western infidels from Muslim lands and to destroy what they saw as apostate Western-stooge governments who were usurping God's purposes across the Muslim world. The concepts and ideals we hold most dear were anathema to them: liberty, freedom, justice, democracy, human rights, equality between the sexes - all matters which they considered to be the exclusive province of Allah.


Our kidnappers were certain, they would prevail, but whether it took 20, 200 or 2,000 years was of no consequence. God's will would be done.


Their objective was to establish a 7,000km wide caliphate, stretching from Nouakchott in Mauritania to Mogadishu in Somalia, to be ruled by stern Allah-fearing Islamic sages who could be relied upon to understand and execute God's will. AQIM believes that by replicating across the Sahel the chaos and anarchy caused by their Al Shabaab colleagues in present day Somalia, they will be creating the perfect growth medium in which their vision will flourish.


In the face of the murderous rampage of Boko Haram in Nigeria over the past year, which included the bombing of Nigerian police headquarters in Abuja and the destruction of UN headquarters, many hundreds have been killed (thousands over the past decade). There seems, though, to be a reluctance to believe that it is all part of the same Jihadi movement. Many want to believe that Boko Haram is different, somehow less dangerous than al-Qaeda's other African affiliates. While I understand the reluctance to acknowledge that al-Qaeda might have won a solid foothold in Africa's most populous and important country, again, I know that to be the case. One of my captors was a young Nigerian from Kano; clearly what we would call an exchange officer.


The threat to the stability of the northern half of Africa posed by militant Jihadi Islam is present and real. It has been exacerbated by the fallout from our Libyan adventure, which has caused weapons in untold quantities to spew across one of the most fragile parts of the world. Not only do al-Qaeda's predations endanger the development gains of the past half-century in the upper part of Africa, but chaos there will very directly impact Western Europe as human emergencies of immense proportion bloom, and illegal refugee flows multiply by orders of magnitude. Our African friends need help to defeat such a scourge, and we, throughout the West, need to get a lot more serious - and very quickly - about discouraging the Saudis and Gulf states from their generous funding of radical Salafist madrasas across the world, and most immediately in Africa where they are providing the recruits to al-Qaeda's African franchises.


After intensive diplomacy on the part of all manner of regional players, Louis and I were freed after 130 days of captivity, along with the two female members of a group of European tourists who had been kidnapped by a separate AQIM faction. Six weeks after we returned to Canada, another of that group, the Briton Edwin Dyer, was killed by his captors. Louis and I are very lucky to be alive and we owe our lives to a great many fine, imaginative and hard working people who made it possible.


I welcome this opportunity to extend my deepest sympathies to the families of Chris McManus and Franco Lamolinara, who were not so fortunate. They were murdered this past week following their kidnapping in north-western Nigeria last May. So often during my captivity did I worry about the risks of a rescue attempt, only to fear that it might not be made, so I also extend my empathy to the brave professionals who made the attempt, for I know the extent of their distress at the failure of their enormously risky mission.


Robert R.Fowler is a former Canadian diplomat and UN official.

Source: DNA

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/war-on-terror/robert-fowler/fearing-death-as-an-al-qaeda-captive/d/6831




TOTAL COMMENTS:-   1
  • I fully sympathize with Robet Fowler for his terrifying ordeal at the hands of ‘al-Qaida’ terrorists, and feel profoundly sad for his colleagues, Chris McManus and Franco Lamolinara who were brutally murdered despite the purely peaceful character of their mission. Following a hair raising narration of his ordeal, Fowler hits at the head of the nail by exclaiming “We, throughout the West, need to get a lot more serious - and very quickly - about discouraging the Saudis and Gulf states from their generous funding of radical Salafist madrassas across the world.” However, implementation of such a scheme could probably be more difficult and complex than waging a full scale war.
    Salafism is a deep rooted ideology that is highly porous and subjective. Fundamentally it is based on strict adherence to the five pillars of Islam - prayer, fasting, pilgrimage and Obligatory charity, crowned by belief in God and the Prophet Muhammad. It also adopts a version of the Hanbali school of law that heavily relies on the Hadith sciences, legislates the Qur’anic exemplary and existential punishments and upholds a literalist, patriarchic, exclusive and politicized reading of the Qur’anic text. Any attempt from a non-Muslim quarter/ Western world to contain or offset the impact of Salafism would be perceived as an infringement of religious rights and will be strongly resisted by the entire Muslim world and feed radicalization and militant jihad in global scale. On the other hand Salafist discourses contain materials that, taken literally and out of context, can be restrictive, oppressive, exclusive, divisive, barbaric, and terror and hatred inducing and their continued teaching in the madrassas is feeding radicalization and international terrorism. Thus the West confronts a dilemma: its interference on the curriculum of madrassas will be strongly resisted and its silence on the continued teaching of Salafist material will feed radicalization and potentially promote terrorism. What the West urgently needs is an authenticated in-house discourse tabling a cut and dry case on religious ground for displacing Salafist discourses (the Hadith, Classical Islamic Law and the Sira of the Prophet) in madrassa curriculum with universal sciences and diverse art forms. The following articles may be further honed up to frame such a discourse that the West can push through the Arab world engaging specialist America Muslim spokespersons. The terrorist outfits are driven by ideology and unless the ideology is corrected, the menace of terror will loom large over the Western world.
    1. The Classical Islamic Law (Islamic Sharia Law) is NOT a Word of God

    http://www.newageislam.com/NewAgeIslamIslamicShariaLaws_1.aspx?ArticleID=5714
    http://www.newageislam.com/NewAgeIslamIslamicShariaLaws_1.aspx?ArticleID=5723
    2. An Open Reminder to the Ulamas: Rejecting universal knowledge as un-Islamic is brazenly un-Islamic and kufr (denial of truth)
    http://www.newageislam.com/NewAgeIslamIslamicShariaLaws_1.aspx?ArticleID=5961
    3. The evolution of the Hadith sciences and the Prophet’s Sunna and the need for a Major Paradigm Shift regarding the role of the Hadith Corpus and the scope of Madrassa education.
    http://www.newageislam.com/NewAgeIslamIslamicShariaLaws_1.aspx?ArticleID=6581

    By muhammad yunus - 3/13/2012 11:49:39 AM

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