Nouakchott — "These young Mauritanians have taken their own lives or gone off to kill themselves," said a terrorism expert of recent al-Qaeda recruits.
The war in Mali is forcing Mauritanian security forces to be more vigilant and closely monitor people who could be recruited by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and affiliated terrorist groups.
Against this background, a large number of salafists were arrested over the past few days.
Mauritanian security services on Tuesday (January 29th) arrested Dembra Ould Semane, the brother of salafist prisoners Mohamed and El Khadim Ould Semane.
"The Mauritanian police have placed many salafist activists under surveillance for fear that they will join Al-Qaeda camps," al-Akhbar stated.
Moreover on Monday, according the website, "three people were arrested... in Chegar, in central Mauritania. They are suspected of having links with salafist extremists in northern Mali."
These arrests highlight once more the issue of the recruitment of young Mauritanians by terrorist groups.
"Mauritania is a real recruiting ground for AQIM," said analyst Abdou Ould Mohamed. "This is because the ground is fertile. In Mauritania, the majority of the population is young, with 59% of inhabitants under 25. In addition, many young people are unemployed."
Ould Mohamed added that Muslim fundamentalism is gaining ground in Mauritania.
"There is a great deal of enthusiasm for Islamist parties," he commented.
Observers noted that young people are flocking to join AQIM.
"Mauritanians are rising up the ranks of the terrorist organisation," said terrorism expert Sidati Ould Cheikh. "In December, AQIM's national emir appointed terrorist chief Mohamed Lemine Ould Hacen, alias Abdallah al-Chinguetti, as head of the Al Vourghan brigade to replace the former emir Yahya Abou El Hammam, who was appointed as the terrorist organisation's second-in-command in the Sahel."
Al-Chinguetti is of Mauritanian origin. He studied at the Higher Institute of Islamic Studies and Research in Mauritania in 2006 and was jailed several times by the Mauritanian authorities.
He is now the terrorist organisation's spokesman in the Sahel.
In a video broadcast shortly after his appointment, Al-Chinguetti explained that many young Mauritanians joined AQIM, just as he did in 2006.
"Mauritanians are just behind Algerians in terms of the number of fighters within AQIM," noted Cheikh Haidara, editor-in-chief of the daily newspaper L'Authentique. "In the past, they held key positions as spokesmen and preachers. Today, they are holding an increasing number of command positions within the military hierarchy."
"In any case, these young Mauritanians have taken their own lives or gone off to kill themselves in Algeria, Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Tunisia," said ANI head and expert on Islamism Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Aboul Maaly.
Among the many young Mauritanians who have sacrificed themselves for AQIM, Ould Aboul Maaly mentioned "the two suicide bombers who blew themselves up in Mauritania, namely Moussa Ould Zeidane, alias Abou Oubeida al-Basri, the man responsible for the suicide attack on the French embassy in Nouakchott in August 2009, and Idriss Ould Mohamed Lemine, alias Abou Ishagh al-Chinguitty, the man behind the foiled suicide bombing of 25 August 2010 at the military barracks in Nema, in eastern Mauritania."
"Then there is Ibrahim Al Khalil Ould Haboye, alias Nacer, who was responsible for a suicide bombing at a Nigerien army barracks in March 2010 and Sidina Ould Khattary, alias Abou Zeineb Al-Mouritani, who carried out the suicide bombing on a bus in the Algerian city of Bouira in 2008," he added.