Sahel states respond to AQIM threat

An anti-terrorism forum held this week in Nouakchott, Mauritania’s capital, called for a “national charter” to face the threat of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and for “dialogue with the extremists” who are willing to surrender. It also recommended “creation of a center that would teach the culture of moderation” and a social policy to “dry up the sources of terrorism and extremism by fighting ignorance, poverty and exclusion.” However, Defense Minister Hamadi Ould Hamadi ended the forum with a shout of: “We will never negotiate with those who bear arms against their country, we will respond to them with weapons!”

Days earlier, Hamadi told journalists at the forum: “We have deliberately opted for an offensive and dynamic strategy to prevent the formation of operational bases directed against our country” by elements of AQIM based in northern Mali. (Ennahar Online, AFP, Oct. 29; AFP, Oct. 27)

In Mali, army official Col. Yamoussa Camara meanwhile warned at a regional G8 meeting in his country that Western countries should limit their participation in military operations against AQIM to keep the group from gaining sympathy with the populace. AQIM faction is currently believed to be holding seven hostages in northern Mali—five French, a man from Togo, and another from Madagascar. The French government said recently it has information that AQIM may be planning attacks in Europe. In July, French forces participated in a raid with Mauritanian troops against AQIM on Malian soil. (AP, Oct. 13)

Former Tuareg rebels say they are ready to join Malian troops to drive AQIM from their northern territory. “We’re just waiting for the Malian government to give us the green light to chase al-Qaeda from our desert,” an anonymous former rebel told AFP. One military official (also anonymous) added: “It is their home. These are former fighters who can count on the local populations for intelligence.” (AFP, Oct. 10)

See our last posts on al-Qaeda and the struggle for the Sahel.

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