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World’s lawless areas are terror havens, says report

Dotted throughout the world are ”ungoverned territories” outside the control of the states in which they lie and which provide havens for extremists, according to a United States military-financed study by the Rand Corporation think tank.

”The world is full of safe havens for potential terrorists,” Angel Rabasa, director of the study presented at a conference in Israel this week, told Agence France-Presse on the sidelines of the meeting.

Rabasa and seven colleagues studied eight such territories on four continents and presented their findings in the report, Ungoverned Territories. Terrorism’s Global Impact, which was financed by the US Air Force.

The report aims to help the US administration ”to deprive the terrorists [of] the safe havens in these ungoverned territories, as part of the campaign against global terrorism”, Rabasa said.

The best known territory is the mountainous border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan, where law is established by resident tribes and where the US believes al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden is hiding.

”The Pakistani-Afghan border is the prototype of an ungoverned territory that serves as a sanctuary for terrorists groups,” Rabasa said.

”Almost all the factors that are conducive for terrorist groups are present: the most salient factor is favourable social norms, in particular elements … that mandate hospitality and sanctuary to those seeking refuge with the tribes.”

The study also examined the border areas between Saudia Arabia and Yemen, Colombia and Venezuela, Guatemala and Mexico; and an East Africa corridor stretching from Somalia to Mozambique and passing through Kenya, the Sudan and Zimbabwe.

Others were an area in West Africa between the Sahara, the Gulf of Guinea and Tunisia’s Sahel region; the area between the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia and the island of Mindanao in the Philippines; and the northern Caucasus.

The common denominator in all these regions is the lack of control by the state, a vacuum taken up by tribes, clans or gangs.

In the border between Guatemala and Mexico’s Chiapas region, groups ”intimidate the police out of the streets, even with the public beheading of police officers. They become the authority,” said Rabasa.

Some ungoverned regions are not in out of the way places, he added.

”We didn’t include them in the study, but I’m sure that the urban spaces are going to become the battlefields of the future.”

”You have places like Mogadishu, that are completely lawless,” he said, adding that parts of cities like Karachi or Lahore were out of the control of the government and where there were entrenched terrorist organisations.

”Or, in Brazil, you have entire favellas where the police dares to go only with armoured vehicles.” — Sapa-AFP

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