West Africa and Maghreb Security Brief

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Algerian security forces reveal a list of 108 terrorists; Spanish Foreign Minister seeks aid from Mauritanian President over hostages; AQIM follower asks the movement to attack US-Moroccan joint forces; AQIM says two of their leaders captured and did not surrender, as government claimed; the National People’s Army undertook a successful ambush; a bombing in Algeria kills four people; sleeper cell associated with drug traffickers; French officials visit Algeria; Mauritania refusal to exchange prisoners for hostages; Mauritanian security forces prevent a prison break; Spain and Morocco begin naval exercises; Niger President meets with Qadhafi about death-row prisoners; private radio station Niger able to broadcast after two-year hiatus; “re-orientation” of former militants begins in Nigeria; 300 suspected kidnappers have been arrested within four months in Nigeria; clashes in Nigeria lead to deaths; the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta demands ransoms; foreign reserves in Nigeria have shrunk substantially within two weeks; Belarus and Nigeria sign a military accord; Saudi investments in Nigeria; and security forces seized video of AQIM training camp.

Algeria:

  • AQIM denied that two of its members, Abu al Abbas Uthman and Abu Nu’man, surrendered to Algerian authorities through a statement issued on June 7. The group alleged that the two were captured and the reports were created by Algerian authorities to deceive the public.[i]

  • The Algerian security forces released a list of 108 names of suspected terrorists in the Sahara and Sahel regions, which included 21 Algerians accused of belonging to the Sahara Emirate. On the list were also thirty-four Mauritanians, five Moroccans, three Tunisians, six Libyans, fourteen Nigerians, seven Chadians, and twenty-one Malians. There are also reports of suspects from Egypt, Senegal, Benin, and Burkina Faso.[ii]

  • Security services in Algeria seized weapons and ammunitions in Algiers when arrested a man who confessed to an affiliation with AQIM. He allegedly had orders to aid in transporting ten Tunisian elements to the group’s stronghold and give them identification documents.[iii]

  • Algeria’s armed forces, the People’s National Army, undertook an ambush killing five terrorists and arresting two others in the outskirts of Tizi-Ouzou on the night of June 9. The citizens of the area had informed the security forces about the movements of the terrorists in the village of Thula Tighrist. The National People’s Army then began a large sweep of the surrounding area to find those who had escaped during the ambush.[iv]

  • Terrorists in an explosive-packed truck bombed a checkpoint in Lakhdaria in the Bouira province of Algeria killing two police officers and two civilians, including a Chinese worker, and injuring 20 others on June 10. The same night, Algerian security forces in Bouira killed two militants and arrested another.[v]

  • Security forces revealed the identity of the terrorists who orchestrated the attacks on the paramilitary police barracks in the Timizar region east of Algiers on June 10. Youcef Maldji was suspected of involvement with abductions and recruitments and put bombs in a retired soldier’s car. Maldji was sentenced to death. Another identified terrorist is Hakim Bournane.[vi]

  • The criminal court convicted D. Mohammad for his relation to a terrorist group. The court also convicted another, Touhami, with the sentence of 20 years. The accused revealed the identities of other terrorist elements and denied being arrested for connection to a clash with security forces. Others convicted in this case faced between five and 20 years in prison and escaped the death penalty.[vii]

  • Algerian security forces dismantled a sleeper cell active in Oran on June 12. The terrorist group allegedly colluded with the mafia and gangs to smuggle arms and drugs from Morocco.[viii]

  • The Algerian government appointed Republican Guard Commander General Abdelghani Hamel as national security chief on June 16. This post has been vacant since the assassination of Colonel Ali Tounsi on February 25.[ix]

  • The French Secretary General and a diplomatic advisor visited Algeria in a second trip to enhance relations between France and Algeria on June 20. The Secretary General stated that, after he left the meeting, he was optimistic that the relationship was on the road to normalization and there was a mutual desire to improve it.[x]

Mauritania:

  • Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos reportedly asked Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz to consider releasing an Islamist prisoner in an effort to release the two Spaniards Alberto Vilalta and Roque Pascual held by AQIM on June 6. The prisoner in question is Mauritanian Taghi Ould Youssef who is held at Lahsar prison and was involved in violent acts against the Mauritanian police.[xi]

  • Mauritania refuses to free Taghi Ould Youssef in exchange for Spaniards kidnapped by AQIM. This refusal comes as a shock despite the Mauritanian president’s insistence that he would not allow the release during the meeting with the Spanish Foreign Minister on June 6.[xii]

  • Mauritanian Defense Minister Hamadi Ould Baba Ould Hamadia refused to release Al Qaeda prisoners in exchange for Western hostages because it would pose a threat to Mauritanian security he said in an interview on June 9. According to the Defense Minister, ransom payments and release of prisoners only perpetuates terrorism. Currently, about 70 Islamists are being held in Nouakchott central prison.[xiii]

  • Mauritanian officials have prevented a prison escape attempt by suspected Al Qaeda members according to security sources on June 10. The prisoners were digging a tunnel that had already passed under one or two of the walls when guards discovered them.[xiv]

Morocco:

  • A supporter of the Jihadist movement reported to AQIM about the AFRICOM-sponsored military exercises in Morocco with American forces known as “African Lion 2010”. He told AQIM to “attack, attack” the joint forces.[xv]

  • The Spanish and Moroccan navies are conducting joint naval exercises called “MAES” in the Gulf of Cadiz. The goal is to improve joint training and naval procedures revolving around safety and security. The exercises have begun in the port of Rota and will end in the port of Casablanca.[xvi]

Dealings in Niger:

  • Niger President General Salou Djibo visited Libyan leader Mu’ammar al Qadhafi on June 13. Djibo met with the leader to discuss the situation involving the 40 Niger prisoners sentenced to death in Libya.[xvii]

  • Libya has decided to drop the death sentences on the 22 Niger nationals. Libya will transfer more than half of the prisoners back to Niger to serve their sentences.[xviii]

  • The National Observatory of Communications in Niger has allowed the main private radio station of northern Niger, Sahara FM to broadcast again after a two-year hiatus. The leader of the Tuareg rebellion, Rhissa Ag Boula, had owned the station before it was bought in 2004. This permission to broadcast is an effort on behalf of the junta to reestablish democracy in Niger after the government took harsh measures to limit freedom of speech during the rebellion.[xix]

Stabilization Efforts in Nigeria:

  • The Nigerian government is training approximately 20,000 ex-militants in order to “reorient” and “reintegrate” them into society. Under this program, the former rebels will be given finances to build their own businesses. The first group of former militants will have completed the program by the week of June 20. Since this amnesty program has started, lowered conflict in the Niger Delta has led to an increased oil output of about two million additional barrels per day.[xx]

  • Abuja’s police chief reported that more than 300 suspected kidnappers have been arrested since President Jonathan demanded action against abductions in February. All of those arrested are members of the Igbo ethnic group from southeastern Nigeria.[xxi]

  • The Rivers State Command of the Nigeria Civil Security Corp reported that it arrested several people for vandalizing oil pipelines and that the Corp is creating new means of preventing these occurrences.[xxii]

  • Belarus and Nigeria signed a military cooperation accord on June 17. According to State Defense Industry Committee spokesman Uladzimir Lawranyuk, the accord provides a legal basis for development of cooperation in the military and technical spheres.[xxiii]

  • A group of Saudi investors pledged $300 million in agriculture, housing, and infrastructure in Katsina State during a visit over the weekend of June 19-20. The leader of the delegation Salim Lalani said that the group will eventually spread its contributions and projects to other regions of the country.[xxiv]

Instability in Nigeria:

  • The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta claimed that four government soldiers were killed and an unspecified number were wounded in clashes during the night of June 9. The group said that the clashes began when its militants came upon two military gunboats in Delta State. It reports that none of its fighters were wounded. The Joint Task Force denies the claim regarding the deaths of any soldiers.[xxv]

  • The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta demanded a ransom of $1.5 million for the release of two Russian sailors they abducted in Cameroon in May. The captives are Captain Boris Tersintsev and Chief Engineer Officer Igor Shumik.[xxvi]

  • Nigeria’s foreign reserves have shrunk from $39 billion to $37.5 billion since the end of May. This is due to the Central Bank of Nigeria’s attempts to maintain the stability of the naira. The country’s naira currency has recently declined to 154 naira to the dollar.[xxvii]

Transnational:

  • Security forces in northern Africa seized a video from a defector of a group affiliated with AQIM. The video was recorded in the Sahara desert near Sudan. There are no threats against the West and it depicts members reading the Quran, listening to the radio, and taking pictures for identification cards. The authorities believe that the men are mostly from Algeria, Morocco, and Mauritania.[xxviii]



[i] “AQIM Denies Surrender of Two Members,” Site Intel Group, June 7, 2010, Available at: Site Intel Group.
[ii] Nasser, Ahmed, “A New publication of research includes 108 terrorists: Algerians are a minority in a group Yahia Djouadi,” El Khabar, June 15, 2010, http://www.elkhabar.com/quotidien/index.php?idc=30&ida=211776&key=0&cahed=1.
[iii] Yacine, B. “Seizure of weapons in the capital and east of the country. Tunisians join Al-Qa’idah strongholds in Algeria,” El Khabar, June 8, 2010, http://elkhabar.com/quotidien/?ida=210609&idc=30.
[iv] Sunia, Q., “The Elimination of 5 Terrorists and the Arrest of Others in Tizi-Ouzou,” Echorou, June 10, 2010, http://www.echoroukonline.com/ara/national/53377.html.
[v] “Four killed in bombing in northeast Algeria,” Ennahar, June 11, 2010, Available at: http://www.ennaharonline.com/en/news/4126.html.
[vi] Bachouche, N., “Algeria suicide attacker identified,” Echorouk, June 13, 2010, http://www.echoroukonline.com/eng/index.php?news=9929.
[vii] Dihia, M. “The division in the case of those accused with financing terrorist groups in Boumerdes: Sentences of death and 20 years for the emirs from Saraya Al Ansar Battalion,” El Bilad, June 13, 2010, http://www.elbiladonline.net/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=20180.
[viii] Bachouche, Nuwara, “Terrorists and mafia of weapons and drugs planned to target tourists and expatriates,” Echorouk, June 14, 2010, http://www.echoroukonline.com/ara/national/53617.html.
[ix] “Abdelghani Hamel named Algeria security chief,” Zawya via Maghrebia, June 16, 2010, http://www.zawya.com/story.cfm?id=ZAWYA20100617044448&l=044400100616&zawyaemailmarketing.
[x] Musallam, Mohammed, “Trips to unfreeze the crisis of diplomatic relations between Algeria and Paris,” Echorouk, June 21, 2010, http://www.echoroukonline.com/ara/national/54012.html.
[xi] “Spain asks Mauritania to consider freeing Islamist prisoner,” La Razon, June 8, 2010, Available at: http://www.nexis.com.
[xii]  “Mauritania refuses to swap Islamist prisoner for Spaniards held in Mali,” La Razon via BBC Monitoring Europe – Political, June 10, 2010, Available at: http://www.nexis.com.
[xiii] “Mauritania rules out freeing Al-Qaeda prisoners for hostages,” Agence France Presse, June 9, 2010, Available at: http://www.nexis.com.
[xiv] “Al-Qaeda prisoners in Mauritania tunnel jail-break bid,” Agence France Presse, June 10, 2010, Available at: http://www.nexis.com.
[xv] “Jihadist Alerts AQIM to Joint US-Morocco Military Exercises,” Site Intel Group, June 9, 2010, Available at: Site Intel Group.
[xvi] “Spanish, Moroccan navies conduct joint naval exercises,” EFE, June 16, 2010. Available at: World News Connection.
[xvii] “Niger leader in Libya for talks on death-row offenders,” Radio France Internationale, June 14, 2010. Available at: World News Connection.
[xviii] “Libya drops death sentences for convicted Niger nationals,” Radio France Internationale, June 19, 2010. Available at: World News Connection.
[xix] “Niger: Junta Allows Radio in Rebel Area to Broadcast Again,” AFP (World Service), June 14, 2010. Available at: World News Connection.
[xx] “Nigeria: Re-training of Ex-Militants to Start in Two Weeks in Line with Amnesty,” AFP (World Service), June 8, 2010, Available at World News Connection.
[xxi] “Nigeria: Police Chief Says over 300 Suspected Kidnappers Arrested Since February,” AFP (World Service), June 9, 2010, Available at: World News Connection.
[xxii] “Nigeria: Security Arrests Oil Pipeline Vandals in Rivers State,” FRCN Kaduna, June 17, 2010, Available at: World News Connection.
[xxiii] “Belarus, Nigeria sign military cooperation accord,” Belapan, June 18, 2010, Available at: World News Connection.
[xxv] “Nigeria: Main Armed Rebel Group Claims Killing Four Soldiers in Fresh Clashes,” AFP (World Service), June 10, 2010, Available at: World News Connection.
[xxvi] “Nigerian Militant Group Demands 1.5 Million USD for Release of Russian Sailors,” Xinhua, June 10, 2010, Available at: World News Connection.
[xxvii] “Nigeria: Central Bank Official Says Foreign Reserves Further Shrink,” AFP (World Service), June 15, 2010. Available at: World News Connection.
[xxviii] “AQIM tape surfaces,” UPI, June 11, 2010, Available at: http://www.nexis.com.
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Pressure on Nigerian president to correct electoral process; two explosions in Nigeria; call for greater anti-drug legislation; drug-bust and more than 270kg seized; Spanish foreign minister visits Mauritania to assess situation of kidnapped aid workers; increased construction of guard posts along borders of Mauritania; American troops train Malian forces in the fight against terror.

 

Instability in Nigeria:

  • Unity Forum has urged President Jonathan to back the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). If Nigeria fails to correct its electoral processes, democracy, peace, stability, and security will be in danger, according to the Forum, which has observed that there are few governmental means to revive public confidence in free and fair elections in 2011. [i]

  • Two explosions occurred in Yenagoa in the southern state of Bavelsa, Nigeria the night of June 2. One of the explosions occurred in the residence of the Bavelsa’s deputy governor, Peremobowei Ebebi, and the second in a hotel owned by one of Ebebi’s loyalists. None were wounded in the explosions and the investigation for the perpetrators is ongoing.[ii]

Drug-Trafficking in Nigeria:

  • The Kebbi State Command of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) in Nigeria has called for the state to pass more legislation prohibiting the use of drugs. The leader of the NDLEA seeks to prevent the use of drugs through anti-drug campaigns. Governor Usman Dakingari stated that the government would demand for new laws.[iii]

  • The NDLEA has arrested more than 75 suspects and seized approximately 270kg of drugs in Kano, Nigeria. The new state commander of the NDLEA Haruna Kutishe said that drugs are a major societal problem in Nigeria and there needs to be greater action on this front.[iv]

Anti-Militant Efforts in Mauritania:

  • Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos visited Nouakchott on June 6. The aim of his visit was to discuss the situation of aid workers Albert Vilalta and Roque Pascual who AQIM took hostage on November 29, 2009. According to AFP, Algerian Mokhtar Belmokhtar (also known as Belawar) is most likely holding the two Spanish men.[v]

  • Guard posts for security forces along Mauritania’s borders have increased in number in recent weeks. Currently there are 45 border posts, which use computer technology to track foreigners, erected in order to combat AQIM, illegal immigration, and narcotics and weapons trafficking. The government aims to “recover the northern border” with Western Sahara and Algeria and to establish a city to the east near the border with Mali. However, president of the Mauritanian Human Rights Association Fatimata M’Baye fears that issues of security will override the struggle for democracy.[vi]

Anti-Militant Efforts in Mali:

  • More than 200 U.S. troops have trained Malian troops to combat AQIM in recent days through Operation Flintlock. Intelligence officers continue to believe that Al Qaeda members are joining with drug traffickers to smuggle cocaine through Africa into Europe. There is also the possibility that a non-aggression pact exists between AQIM and Mali and that AQIM receives financial support from traffickers so that they may pass through the region unharmed.[vii]



[ii] “Nigeria: Two Separate Bomb Explosions Reported in Jonathan’s Home State, Bayelsa,” EMNNews Online via The Associated Foreign Press (World Service), June 3, 2010, http://emnnews.com/breaking_news/explosion-in-bayelsa-state-rekindle-new-fear-of-militants-attacks/.
[iv] “Nigeria: Drug Abuse Rate Soars in Kano,” FRCN Kaduna, June 2, 2010, Available at World News Connection.
[v] “Spain working hard to free aid workers abducted in Mauritania – minister,” El Mundo, June 7, 2010, http://www.elmundo.es/elmundo/2010/06/06/espana/1275852161.html.
[vi] Mandraud, Isabelle, “Mauritania Erects Border Posts to Thwart Al-Qa’ida,” Le Monde, June 4, 2010, http://www.lemonde.fr/cgi-bin/ACHATS/acheter.cgi?offre=ARCHIVES&type_item=ART_ARCH_30J&objet_id=1125561.
[vii] De Montesquiou, Alfred, “Al-Qaida offshoot grows in the desert,” The Associated Press, June 6, 2010, http://www.nexis.com.
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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.
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