West Africa and Maghreb Security Brief May 18, 2010 - June 2, 2010

AQIM releases recording of French hostage; Mauritanian courts convict AQIM militants over French tourist massacre and Austrian kidnapping; AQIM leader surrenders in Algeria; Operation Flintlock training mission underway in Sahel; Egyptian Islamist holds rally in Mauritania; Nigerien authorities detain Algerian who drove AQIM-abducted Frenchman; AQIM militants ambushed in eastern Algeria; informal economy make make up majority of Nigerian GDP; three Muslims killed near Jos; Niger Delta government group rejects peace moves; former Niger Delta militants offer Nigerian president support; Jonathan sacks National Nigerian Petroleum Company head.

  

Al Qaeda Media Announcements

  • Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) released an internet message containing an audio recording of abducted Frenchman, Michel Germaneau, pleading for help to French President, Nicholas Sarkozy, on May 14.[i]

Mauritanian Al Qaeda Trials

  • A Mauritanian court convicted three AQIM militants, Sidi Ould Sidna, Mohamed Ould Chabarnou, and Maarouf Ould Haiba, on May 25 for their part in the Christmas 2007 slaying of a French family in Aleg; the judge presiding over the case recommended the death penalty for each.[ii]  Defense lawyers filed an appeal on May 26.[iii]  The first of twelve militants to be tried for their involvement in the massacre, Abdallahi Ould Mohamed Sidya, received a six-year sentence on May 16.[iv]

  •  A Mauritanian court sentenced another AQIM operative, Dahoud Ould Setti, on May 23 to ten years imprisonment for forming a terrorist cell.[v]

  • Additionally, a Mauritanian court sentenced AQIM militant, Cheikh Brahim Ould Hammoud, to eight years in prison on May 17 for his involvement in the 2008 kidnapping of two Austrian tourists in Tunisia.  Another suspect involved in the abduction, Mohamed Abdel Moumen, received a two-year sentence on the same day, while a Malian national was acquitted.[vi]

Other Mauritanian News

West African Security

  • According to the Algerian Interior Ministry, a senior AQIM operative, Athmane Touati, alias Abou el-Abbes, surrendered to authorities on May 25.[viii]

  • Nigerien authorities detained the Algerian driver of abducted French tourist, Michel Germaneau, on suspicion of his complicity in Mr. Germaneau’s April 21 kidnapping by AQIM militants in northern Niger, on May 17.[ix]

  • A joint effort by American, Dutch, and Spanish special forces has commenced to train Sahel countries’ armies to counter more effectively the growing threat of AQIM.  Operation Flintlock follows a March security summit, in which regional powers urged greater cooperation and which resulted in the establishment of a joint counterinsurgency command.[x]

  • According to local police, Algerian security forces ambushed four AQIM militants in a forest in eastern Algeria, killing three and capturing one as they emerged from their concealed shelter, on May 15.[xi]

Instability in Nigeria

  • The non-taxed, unregulated “informal economy” may make up much as 65 percent of Nigeria’s GDP.[xii]

  • A group of northern Nigeria leaders writes a letter complaining that Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan, has appointed too many southerners to the senior echelons of the Ministry of Petroleum.[xiii]

  • More violence occurs in northern Nigeria: three killed near Jos, days after nighttime curfew lifted, on May 22.[xiv]

  • Niger Delta rebel group MEND rejects government peace moves after some MEND leaders accept amnesty on May 20.[xv]

  • Former Niger Delta militants offer support to Nigerian President Jonathan, who hails from the Delta region, committing to an amnesty program and complimenting the appointment of Timi Alaibe, formerly Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, to presidential advisor on the Niger Delta, on May 19.[xvi]

  • Nigerian President Jonathan removes the head of the Nigerian National Petrochemical Company (NNPC), reportedly due to the fact that the now-former head did not share Jonathan's vision of reform for the company, on May 17. Jonathan wants to transform the NNPC into a global competitor with the likes of Petrobras and conduct a full audit of the organization. This follows the signing of a $28.5 billion deal between NNPC and China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) for the construction of three refineries, whose output would total 750,000 bpd, and a petrochemical plant.


[i] “Qaeda releases audio of Frenchman 'captured in Niger,’” Agence France Presse, May 14, 2010, http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hEPOb6e_5HINZaVebP7zAgPhxQYQ.
[ii] “Mauritania gives three men death sentence for French killings,” BBC, May 25, 2010, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/10159212.stm.
[iii]Mauritania defence lawyers to appeal Al-Qaeda death sentences,” Agence France Presse, May 26, 2010, www.nexis.com.
[iv]Six years for Qaeda-linked murder of French tourists in Mauritania,” Agence France Presse, May 16, 2010, www.nexis.com.
[v] “Terror suspects on trial in Mauritania for killing French tourists,” RFI, May 23, 2010, http://www.english.rfi.fr/africa/20100523-terror-suspects-trial-mauritania-killing-french-tourists.
[vi]Mauritanian linked to Austrian kidnapping jailed,” Agence France Presse, May 17, 2010, www.nexis.com
[vii] “Al-Qaradhawi: I Want to Die Fighting and Killing Zionists,” The Memri Blog, May 22, 2010, http://www.thememriblog.org/blog_personal/en/27247.htm.
[viii] “Top al-Qaida member surrenders in Algeria: Security forces,” Agence France Presse, June 1, 2010, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/rest-of-world/Top-al-Qaida-member-surrenders-in-Algeria-Security-forces/articleshow/5996406.cms.
[ix] “Algerian accused over French tourist kidnap in Niger,” BBC, May 17, 2010, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8686626.stm
[xi] “Algerian forces kill 3 suspected Islamic militants,” Associated Press, May 15, 2010, http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jIH2RE06MibnYJu-3m1_YQUD29XwD9FNCJ8O4.
[xii] “Nigeria: The Informal Economy And Entrepreneurial Development (1),” Vanguard, May 24, 2010, http://allafrica.com/stories/201005240257.html.
[xiii] “Nigeria: Oil Sector Shake-Up - Northern Elders Slam Jonathan,” Vanguard, May 24, 2010, http://allafrica.com/stories/201005240271.html.
[xiv] “Mob kills three in troubled central Nigeria,” Reuters, May 22, 2010, http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE64L2EK20100522.
[xv] Randy Fabi,Nigerian militants dismiss renewed peace drive,” Next, May 20, 2010, http://234next.com/csp/cms/sites/Next/Home/5570347-146/nigerian_militants_dismiss_renewed_peace_drive.csp.
[xvi] Ike Abonyi, “Nigeria: Ex-militants assure Jonathan of Maximum Support,” This Day, May 20, 2010, http://allafrica.com/stories/201005200153.html.