Algiers — Security officials across the Sahel-Sahara must be prepared for an "awakening" from terrorist groups, analysts warn.
While terrorist groups may have "have lost the battle", the head of an Algiers-based think tank cautioned that any lessening of vigilance could allow jihadists and their criminal allies to recover from recent blows and mount new attacks.
The threat remains "real" in the region, the head of the African Centre for Studies and Research on Terrorism (CAERT), Francisco Caetano Jose Madeira, told intelligence officials from 14 countries last week in Algiers.
"Although the terrorist groups appear to be paralysed, we have to work together to continue our battle against terrorism," he said September 23rd at an African security conference.
The Nairobi attack by al-Shabaab terrorists cast its shadows on the event and boosted concerns about the movement of al-Qaeda-linked terrorist groups.
"The terrorists, especially those affiliated with Mokhtar Belmokhtar and al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb... are working on recruiting populations in the desert," the CAERT chief said.
"They are now working on revitalising their activities after the operations they carried out against on the Tiguentourine gas plant in Algeria, Arlit in Niger and in Nigeria, through the activities of Boko Haram," he added.
The head of the Algiers-based security think tank urged intelligence officers in Sahel countries to share information on terrorist groups' movements.
"Terrorism is a global phenomenon that can only be defeated through international co-operation,' German Ambassador to Algeria Gots Lingerthol said. He added that his country was willing to provide participating countries with sophisticated technologies to monitor the movements of terrorist and criminal groups.
The conference participants agreed to draw up training programmes for African intelligence officers. They will learn to apply modern technologies in combating terrorist groups that have allied with criminal networks in Africa.
The violence in Libya and the inability of some countries to monitor jihadists' movements on their borders continue to trouble African security officials.
Hamid Boukrouf, Algeria's representative to the conference, criticised the state of border security in the region.
"We notice that many terrorists are moving normally along the border with Libya and the border with Mali," he said. "The battle against terrorism, organised crime and weapons trafficking needs a new breath of life."
"The continuous influx of weapons across the Libyan border and the presence of militants on the border with Mali are concerning," conference attendee Osman Larjan agreed.
The many new groups and offshoots of old ones make the situation even more complicated for security forces, the expert added.
"It has become like a multinational company with shares, and every group wants to boost its actions," Larjan said.