Monday, 12 September 2011
During a conference about security across the vast Sahel region, Saharan countries pledged to continue working together in the fight against terrorism.
Algeria's state news agency APS, quoted de Kerchove as saying that Algeria was well equipped to fight against Al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) but added that “other countries of the region, Mali, Niger, Mauritania, need help." He also warned that AQIM is working together with many terrorist organisation across Africa in order to extend its reach.
De Kerchove noted: "This is something that the intelligence services are following very closely. There is still nothing structural. There are efforts at contacts, and small transfers of money…It seems that some members of Boko Haram (in Nigeria) and al-Shabaab (in Somalia) were trained by AQIM."
Niger's Foreign Minister Mohamed Bazoum, however, has said that so far the collaborative efforts of the four-country joint military body based in the Algerian town of Tamanrasset have been unsuccessful. Speaking to Liberte, in reference to the Committee of Joint Chiefs of the four countries - Algeria, Niger, Mali and Mauritania, founded in 2010, Bazoum said: "So far, we have not seen it execute a single concrete operation. We would like CEMOC to carry out concrete actions."
Speaking at the closing of the even, Algeria's Minister for North African affairs Abdelkader Messahel noted: "The Algiers conference lets the countries of the region show their partners abroad that they possess a true strategy and unified vision for their struggle against terrorism, organized crime and poverty."
AQIM comprises largely of the armed groups who fought the Algerian government in the 1990s, after elections were cancelled in 1991 to stave off a victory for an Islamist political party. The group declared allegiance to Al-Qa'ida in 2006 and embarked on a renewed campaign of bombings and kidnappings across the Sahara.
On 1st September, the group announced that it had killed 29 members of Algeria's security forces between July and August, including 18 in twin suicide bombings of the Algerian military academy at Cherchell on 26th August. It is thought that it subsidises its terror campaigns with money obtained through ransoms from kidnappings and smuggling of guns and drugs through the Sahara.
Although Algeria is keen to show off its efforts to counteract AQIM's activities many remain unconvinced. An Algerian journalist with a background in security issues, Anis Rahmani, called on the government to find a radical solution in order to curtail AQIM's movements. Speaking at the conference, he said: “Talking about the experience of Algeria in the fight against terrorism does not mean that this country controls it.”
Sources: Ennahar Online, Fox News, Voice of America
For more news and expert analysis about Algeria, please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.
For more news and expert analysis about the Sahara region, please see Sahara Focus.