Magharebia (Washington DC)

Algeria: Mauritania, Algeria Combat Smuggling

Nouakchott — Mauritania and Algeria are boosting border security to prevent the infiltration of terrorists and traffickers.

In the wake of recent high-profile smuggling incidents, Mauritanian and Algerian authorities are taking steps to better secure their borders.

Mauritanian authorities "confiscated large quantities of gasoline being illegally imported to the capital Nouakchott through the city of Akjoujt", Akhbarelyom reported on Thursday (February 21st).

A day earlier, Algerian security forces seized an estimated 13,000 litres of fuel near the Mauritanian border.

The fuel was hidden in 13 plastic tanks, each with a capacity of 1,000 litres, Bechar officials said. The traffickers' truck was abandoned in the desert.

The value of the seized fuel was more than 97,000 euros.

These types of operations are part of the efforts made by Algerian and Mauritanian to counter the threat of terrorist infiltration from northern Mali by allied criminal gangs.

The vast desert region of the Algerian-Mauritanian border has been seen as a vital corridor for smugglers of weapons, gasoline and cigarettes.

Smuggling activities have resulted in several clashes between criminals and Mauritanian army forces.

Smugglers have also allied with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

The most prominent arrest was Omar Sid'Ahmed Ould Hamma, alias Omar le Sahraoui, who was handed over by the Mauritanian authorities to Mali in August 2010.

Zouerat, 600 kilometres north of Nouakchott, is the largest Mauritanian city that receives contraband items from those gangs, by virtue of its proximity to the Algerian-Mauritanian border.

Mauritania has greatly suffered from smuggling by organised gangs across the northern border where there is a large desert area, Hasad director Mohameden Ould Akah told Magharebia.

"It is through this area that contraband passes in order to reach the Sinai desert in Egypt," he said. "This is why we have smuggling of cigarettes, drugs and fuel, and it has had a very negative impact on the local economy."

The determination with which the Mauritanian army has faced those bands over the last five years and the extension of their control over areas that were used by criminals has led to a significant decline of smuggling.

As a measure to enhance border security and to ensure the safety of those who cross the borders, Mauritanian authorities held a regional workshop in Nouakchott on February 18th.

The event was attended by a number Malian and Mauritanian of mayors and rural counsellors from the border areas between the two countries.

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