Nouakchott — Mauritania and Senegal just launched a large-scale awareness campaign against terrorism along their shared border.
"Mauritanian and Senegalese army delegations explain to villagers that they need to get involved in the fight against terrorism by promptly reporting any movements of suspicious individuals or groups to the nearest authorities," noorinfo.com said about the joint initiative launched on December 24th.
Soldiers are visiting communities on both sides of the Senegal River to tell citizens about the "dangers that terrorism, cross-border crime and trafficking of all kinds pose to their peace of mind and safety", the Mauritanian news site said.
In September, during the first official visit to Mauritania by Senegalese President Macky Sall, both countries expressed a desire to pool their efforts to tackle terrorism and cross-border crime.
This is not the first time for a campaign like this to be organised along Mauritania's borders, according to journalist Jidou Ould Sidi, who specialises in security issues.
"In February, a similar campaign was run in Mauritania and coordinated with Algeria, Mali and Niger, across the region in which al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) operates," Ould Sidi told Magharebia.
"The goal of this awareness-raising is to tackle the extremist propaganda spread by AQIM among members of border communities whom it draws in," he added.
The prospect of terrorism is becoming increasingly real in Senegal.
"Members of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) have threatened to attack Senegal, which is anxious to create a secure environment in order to stop these cross-border criminals in their tracks," Walfadjri reporter Pape N'Diaye said.
Two months ago, Prime Minister Abdoul Mbaye said that Senegal would adopt a national strategy to tackle money-laundering and the financing of terrorism.
Senegal also recently arrested three Senegalese nationals and seven Mauritanians on terrorism charges, raising concerns that the country is becoming a "transit zone", Walfadjri reporter Pape N'Diaye said.
The same phenomenon already "blighting neighbouring countries such as Mali and Mauritania", the Senegalese journalist added, is now becoming a concern in his country.
"In addition to the threat which appears to be coming from Mali due to Ansar al-Din Islamists, we have been told that salafists have established a branch in Pikine," SeneNews reported.
Al-Qaeda also has a presence in Gambia, the Senegalese website added. "One of its main goals is to establish itself in Senegal."
By Bakari Gueye in Nouakchott for Magharebia - 03/01/13