Magharebia (Washington DC)

30 August 2013

Africa, Europe Partner Against Al-Qaeda

Nouakchott — Maghreb, African and European states may be working on a new security co-ordination bureau to track al-Qaeda activities in Tunisia, Libya, Algeria and northern Mali.

Military, security and intelligence service officials from unspecified Maghreb countries reportedly met earlier this month with their peers from Niger, Nigeria, Mali, Burkina Faso and Chad, along with representatives from France, Italy, Britain, Spain, the Netherlands and Germany.

The joint initiative was born of those discussions, Mauritania's Tawari News reported on Sunday (August 25th).

The security officers were said to have debated ways to deal with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and the growing threat of terrorist groups in the Sahel and Central Africa. European countries reportedly agreed to fund and train African intelligence services.

A joint cell comprising permanent representatives of the participating countries will reportedly exchange information.

In the present climate, this broad partnership between African and European states is to be expected, security analyst Abdul Hamid Ansari told Magharebia.

Even countries far from the Sahel now realise that their security and economy are threatened by terrorism, he noted.

"Al-Qaeda in recent years tried to attract attention by sneaking into countries not usually part of their geographical arena," Ansari added.

According to some observers, the recent merger between the gang led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar (aka Khaled Abou El Abbas or Laaouar) and the Movement of Oneness and Jihad (MUJAO) indicates that terrorists want to expand targets from the Maghreb to West Africa.

"I think the joint co-ordination was dictated by the nature of the enemy." Senegalese journalist Oumar Dembelé said.

"If terrorist groups can co-ordinate in order to hit state interests, then it is imperative for countries to join efforts to face this common threat," Dembele added.

He also criticised the way some African countries initially handled al-Qaeda, "They were fearful and avoided confrontation, which enabled terrorists to move freely and enlist new recruits."

"I think that this reasoning is no longer acceptable today because everyone has become a target for al-Qaeda and everyone is motivated now to confront them," he added.

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