Osama bin Laden may be long dead, but from kidnappings to suicide bombs, our planet is becoming a more volatile place to live by the day. And these crimes are frequently carried out under the express orders of a select group of deadly and unstable men. Here, we reveal the elusive people currently keeping heads of state awake at night.
THE HOMEMADE ARMS TRADER
Who: Cody Wilson – director of Defense Distributed.
What he wants: Total freedom of the internet and the creation of ungovernable weaponry and money markets.
What he does: Uploads blueprints for 3D-printable weapons. Software to make a gun called the Liberator was put on his website last year and had been downloaded 100,000 times by the time the US State Department intervened to have the plans removed.
How he can be stopped: Wilson could face an investigation for possible illegal export of munitions which, if found guilty, would see him face up to seven years in prison. If it could be proven that his actions seriously threatened “US national and regional security interests” the penalty could be longer.
THE LEADER OF AFGHAN REVOLT
Who: Jalaluddin Haqqani – military leader of the Haqqani network, the most deadly of the many Taliban insurgencies.
What he wants: To enforce Sharia law and overthrow government.
What he does: Roadside bombings of Afghan security patrols and US-led foreign forces. Attacks have intensified in the lead-up to the US withdrawal – set for the end of 2014. Afghan security forces revealed in late 2013 that some 40 per cent of its districts have “raised” threat levels from the Taliban.
How he can be stopped: According to the UN, many Taliban groups are now less driven by fundamentalism and have been seduced by profits from illegal trade. A report suggests if the Taliban’s profits from the poppy harvest and other illicit smuggling operations are squeezed they will be forced to the negotiating table.
THE MASS KIDNAPPER
Who: Abubakar Shekau – Islamist terrorist and leader of Boko Haram, which translated means: “Western education is a sin”.
What he wants: Establish an Islamic state in Nigeria and introduce Sharia law.
What he does: Bombings and village massacres, with at least 14 attacks already in 2014. The sect came to the world’s attention with April’s kidnapping of 223 Christian schoolgirls who BH say won’t be freed until an “army” of fighters are released from Nigerian jail cells.
How he can be stopped: According to UN analysts, the Nigerian government needs to reduce chronic poverty in BH strongholds and build an education system to gain local Muslim support.
THE BLACK WIDOW MASTER
Who: Aliaskhab Kebekov AKA Ali Abu Mukhammad – leader of the Caucasus Emirate.
What he wants: To establish an independent Islamic state in the north Caucasus region.
What he does: High-profile bombings of security forces, local officials and transport hubs on Russian soil, including airports and metro stations. Strategy has also included the use of female suicide bombers, ‘Black Widows’, which he has now outlawed.
How he can be stopped: UN analysts have put the responsibility at Putin’s door and said he must change the culture of corrupt pro-Russian governments, which drive people to support Kebekov.
THE AL-QAiDA APPRENTICE
Who: Khaled Chaieb, aka Lokman Abou Sakhr – Algerian leader of al-Qaida affiliate Ansar al-Sharia.
What he wants: To open up a new front for al-Qaida in Africa.
What he does: Accused of having carried out the deadly attack on the US Mission in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including the US ambassador.
How he can be stopped: Intelligence reports suggest that the expert bomb-maker is on his way to Libya’s extremism capital of Derna, where he will be protected while he recruits and trains jihadis for a revamped Ansar al-Sharia.
THE NEW CARTEL KINGPIN
Who: Ismael ‘El Mayo’ Zambada, drug lord of the Sinaloa cartel.
What he wants: To remain at the head of the multibillion-dollar criminal organisation.
What he does: Narco-trafficking into the US and Europe, as well as money laundering and a healthy sideline in kidnapping. The Sinaloa cartel’s position is underpinned by brutal mass killings of rival cartels and civilians to ensure loyalties.
How he can be stopped: According to the House Committee on Homeland Security the cartel’s communications network has been infiltrated, which is how they caught its previous figurehead, the legendary Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman after 13 years on the run. “Our ability to crack their code will not bode well for their future,” Michael McCaul, who chairs the committee, has said.
THE SUDANESE DESPOT
Who: Omar Hassan al-Bashir – president of Sudan and commander of the Rapid Support Forces AKA the Janjaweed militia.
What he wants: To quell rebel and civilian unrest in south Sudan.
What he does: The 10,000-strong Janjaweed are tribal guns-for-hire, notorious for war crimes during the 2003 war in Darfur. They now ride SUVs fitted with high-powered weapons for use against Sudanese civilians at al-Bashir’s command.
How he can be stopped: “African states along with China, which has commercial interests in Africa, need to use their weight to enforce a decade-old UN Security Council resolution that the Janjaweed be disarmed,” says Abdi Ismail Samatar, a professor of geography, environment and society at the University of Minnesota, and a member of the African Academy Of Sciences.
THE MAN BEHIND THE MALL MASSACRE
Who: Ahmed Abdi Godane, AKA Mukhtar Abu Zubair, leader of Islamist militant group al-Shabaab, which means ‘The Youth’ in Arabic.
What he wants: An Islamist state in Somalia.
What he does: Currently, locked in a bloody battle with the UN-backed African Union force in Somalia. They have carried out attacks on civilians from other African nations who have supplied troops for AU, most notably, the 2013 mall massacre in Nairobi, where 67 people were killed.
How he can be stopped: Drone strikes have proven successful with one of the group’s senior commanders killed in a missile attack this year. Somalia’s president has stated on Twitter that drones are an effective deterrent against the arrival of additional jihadists, which will weaken al-Shabaab.
THE INVISIBLE SHEIKH
Who: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis).
Where: Iraq and Syria.
What he wants: To establish his own Islamic state (or caliphate) that would range from northern Syria to eastern Iraq and become a leader known as ‘Caliph Ibrahim’ to whom all Muslims would pledge allegiance. Isis has also released an ambitious map detailing a five-year “expansion plan,” which takes in the Middle East, the Arabian Peninsula, northern Africa, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
What he does: al-Qaida cut ties with the group earlier this year because of its brutality, but Isis has gone on to control more than half of Iraq, enforcing the harsh Wahhabi version of Islam and imposing a strict version of Sharia in the areas under its control.
How he can be stopped: “Airstrikes targeted at Isis training camps in Iraq and Syria,” says Evan Kohlmann, a terrorism analyst and chief information officer of Flashpoint Intel. “Also, the mobilisation of Sunni tribesman to take up arms against Isis, who disagree with their strict interpretation of Islam and ignorance of national borders.”
THE SECRET COMMANDER
Who: Major General Qassem Suleimani – head of Iran’s Quds Force, a Special Forces brigade.
What he wants: To secure Iranian interests across the Middle East.
What he does: Undertakes covert war on the US and Israel, including arming allies, funding militant groups and carrying out assassinations. Largely responsible for intervening in Syria and keeping President Assad in power.
How he can be stopped: His power comes from his close relationship with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, whose own power is based on a huge business empire known as Setad. Sanctions on Setad would disrupt this cosy relationship.
THE MASTER BOMB-MAKER
Who: Ibrahim al-Asiri AKA Abu Saleh – Saudi militant and chief bomb-maker for al-Qaida.
What he wants: To mastermind plots along multiple fronts, including renewed efforts to target Western aeroplanes.
What he does: The former chemistry student uses PETN in bombs – a white, odourless powder that X-ray machines struggle to pick up. He is thought to have designed the ‘underwear’ bomb used in an attempt to blow up a US-bound plane in 2009, and printer bombs sent from Yemen and destined for the US. His most significant threat, according to intelligence, is that he is teaching his techniques to al-Qaida apprentices, causing the ‘credible threat’ warnings issued by the US in July 2014 and led to increased security on all direct flights.
How he can be stopped: The US has intercepted al-Qaida transmissions and positioned him somewhere in the mountainous region of southern Yemen. More precise location intelligence will lead to drone strikes without fear of collateral damage.
THE CYBER SOLDIER
Who: Sun Kailiang – superhacker and captain in the People’s Liberation Army, China.
What he wants: To disrupt the US economy, using cyberwarfare.
What he does: Kailiang – as part of a five-man economic espionage team – has been charged by the FBI of illegally accessing the computer systems of six US companies related to the nuclear industry and controlling computers to steal technical specifications and trade secrets.
How he can be stopped: Counter-offensive virus software has been developed that traces the cyber trail left by attacking malware all the way back to the source server and shuts it down before it can take screenshots of blueprints, copy passwords etc.
Who: Mokhtar Belmokhtar – Algerian jihadi and leader of al-Qaida affiliate Al-Mourabitoun.
Where: Maghreb, Africa.
What he wants: To make al-Qaida a global terrorist movement, to mount attacks on western Europe, and operate coast to coast in Africa.
What he does: Recruits foreign jihadis returning from Syria for new terror campaigns, funded by the illegal tobacco trade, hence the moniker ‘Mr Marlboro’. The man behind the attack on an Algerian gas plant where 40 hostages were killed last year, he is also thought to be responsible for a recently discovered Eiffel Tower terror plot.
How he can be stopped: Belmokhtar’s followers call him ‘The Uncatchable’ after escaping a gun battle with counter-terrorist forces last year. “Similar operations will be mounted within Libyan borders, where Belmokhtar is thought to be,” says jihadist movements expert Mokhtar Belhasin (magharebia.com).