Newsweek on the Sahel: no news and no use

In the 20 November edition of Newsweek, Scott Johnson presents an unfortunate account of terrorism in the Sahel. Johnson sees fit to present readers with an article that brings little enlightenment. The central thesis of “The Terrorist Myth in North Africa,” is to debunk the notion that al-Qaeda “affiliates are growing stronger in other parts of the world, including across the Sahel.” Johnson does not prove this, merely arguing that it is unlikely that a group like AQIM would grow to pose a threat to the international interest in the Sahel.

Like the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Sahel is remote and inhospitable. For centuries, both areas have offered safe routes for drug smugglers, criminals, and brigands. Yet the Sahel offers little of what Pakistan’s border does in the way of hideouts, training camps, or networks of madrassas full of potential recruits. Unlike Tora Bora or South Waziristan, with their caves and hilly enclaves, much of the Sahel is vast, empty, trackless desert. Northern Mali, just one of the Sahel areas that American security officials are expressing concern about, is about 700,000 square kilometers—roughly the size of Texas—but has fewer than 1 million people.

The notion that the Sahel does not offer rogues “hideouts, training camps,” or a “network of madrassas full of potential recruits” is dispensed with by the fact that it in fact offers all of these things, though in shorter supply. For instance, as has been shown on this blog and in numerous government and non-governmental reports, AQIM operatives arrested in Mali (and Algeria, too) have spoken about AQIM training camps in northern Mali, and Mauritanians and other north-west Africans made those camps their first stop on the way to Iraq (if they indeed did end up going there). The young man who carried out the suicide bombing in Nouakchott (which is not mentioned in Johnson’s report) in August was one of many Mauritanians who had passed through the Mali camps. In recent months, AQIM has shifted its emphasis out of the interior and more directly inside Mauritania. But AQIM is not the only set to have used the Sahel’s vast expanse to organize armed rebellion: the Tuareg wars of the 1990’s and early part of this decade were waged from camps and hideouts in the desert and the rough mountains rising from the desert in Niger. If the Sahel did not offer militants these things, why on earth was the Algerian GSPC (now AQIM) making its quick retreat there after its failure in the north?

None of this is to say that AQIM is as dangerous as the Taliban or al-Qaeda in the Afghanistan/Pakistan borderlands. It is, though, to say that one loses perspective if he compares apples and oranges. The Sahel and Af/Pak are two entirely separate regions with separate geographies and historical contexts. To evaluate the Sahel in terms of Af/Pak yields a moment of relief, but when the region is looked at on its own terms — those of an Algeria not far out of a massive and savage Civil War, restive nomadic populations in Niger, wide and practically all-encompassing poverty, the encroachment on traditional religious customs by the cosmopolitan Islamist ideologies via satellite and eastern missionaries and the emergence of progressively more despotic governments amid popular dissatisfaction — the picture is more clear and the region is more justly prioritized.

Today, the Sahel, as has been written here and by others, is going through rapid culture change. This has been brought on by urbanization, caused by draught and other natural phenomena, and the rise of television stations like al-Jazeera, al-Arabyia and so forth. This has added a new level of conscious to an area of the Arab and Muslim world that was previously relative isolated from the Islamist trends in the Arab east. Johnson, though, doesn’t consider this.

[. . . ] the region has never proved to be a fertile ground for the kind of extremist ideology that drives Al Qaeda’s expansion in other parts of the world. Unlike the hinterlands of Pakistan and Afghanistan, where sympathy for hardline Islamist ideology runs broad and deep, in the Sahel jihadist ideology has never taken root. Instead, moderate strains of Sufi Islam have governed the lives of the region’s inhabitants for centuries. Leonardo Villalon, director of the Center for African Studies at the University of Florida, observes that despite the poverty in the region—often the kind of conditions that can spur resentment against the West and interest in jihadist movements—terrorist groups have gained virtually no traction there. Surprisingly, he says, there is instead “widespread social condemnation” of the kind of brutal violence witnessed in the Sahel over the past few years.

Simply because the region has yet to be broadly receptive to extremist ideology does not mean that it cannot be. Johnson ignores the vast gap in historical experience between the two regions. On the one hand in the tribal regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan experienced the deliberate and forceful introduction of such ideology by Arab and Pakistani fighters and government funds during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Sahel has had no such conflict. The massive differences in population between the Sahel and either Afghanistan or Pakistan also contribute to the Sahel’s lack of heavy Islamist presence ideologically. The border regions in Afghanistan and Pakistan are densely and heavily populated. In such an environment, ideologies spread easily. The Sahel has been predominantly rural and semi-nomadic until the misfortunes of late, and the social dislocation one sees in such a context might very well prove to offer up a constituency for militant ideology. That jihadist groups have not made deep inroads into the area is mainly because tradition remains strong and the area isolated from the fashions in the east. The “widespread social condemnation” of terrorist tactics Johnson notes is real; but younger generations have shown less of it, under the influence of new ideas and new political priorities, but not by much. He draws a comparison that is, put directly, unreasonable on multiple fronts.

The ability of AQIM militants to break out of prison in 2008, to carry out a suicide bombing not far from the presidential palace this year, and to carry on with recruiting young men even now speaks to the fact that the radicalizing mechanism does exist. The Salafist presence in the Sahel is growing, its social and political views are shaped more by the internationalizing trends in Islamism elsewhere than in local traditions. One can observe this in both Mauritania and Mali. Fifteen years ago, the influence of Salafism or politicized religious people either country was not readily apparent. Changes are happening, quickly. “My Friend Who Disappeared,” a film in which a young Mauritanian explores the fate of a childhood friend who disappeared after joining AQIM, won first place at the Nouakchott Film Festival this year. Clearly, the Mauritanians see the group as a threat, both at the official level where it is a political tool and at the popular level where it is a genuine cause of concern for public stability.

The bigger point is that it does not take broad social approval to launch a destabilizing campaign in a place like the Sahel. What Johnson leaves out, curiously, is the fragility of local governments and the importance of tribalism in the area. In no fewer than three Sahel countries, Mauritania, Niger and Guinea, there have been important and disappointing disruptions of constitutional government in the last ten years. Mauritania has seen two coups, the second resulting in a political process of dubious legitimacy tolerated by international actors and many in the political establishment, causing growing popular disillusionment with western wisecracks about supporting democratic government in the region. In Niger, President Tandja shoved through an extension of his presidential term, amid widespread opposition. In Guinea a military coup, led by an artless and shameless captain, recently mowed down protesters, deeply impacting the way many in the region see the fate of resistance. Recent floods have shown that the national infrastructure in the region is especially vulnerable in urban areas. As the political processes in the region turns sour, closing off peaceful outlets for political expression, closing off peaceful outlets for political expression, the likelihood that political order may be put in jeopardy increases.

The attacks Johnson mentions do not involve any of those involving local targets. The Mauritanian soldiers killed in the north of that country in 2005 and 2008 are mentioned only in passing. The gunfight in Tavregh Zeina, also in 2008, warrants no attention. The suicide attack by the French embassy in August is also unmentioned. He further omits fighting over the last year between Malian forces and AQIM militants. Johnson writes the story without ever mentioning or examining where it takes place, beyond the vagary of “that broad expanse of remote desert stretching from Africa’s north Atlantic coast inland to the border of Darfur.” A “broad expanse of remote desert,” it remains throughout the rest of Johnson’s report, its population passive and nameless and their troubles too petty to be taken seriously by powerful men. The ability of the United States to affect the situation in the Sahel is limited, and it is curious that Johnson leaves out any analysis of France’s role in the area, which was, with the sole exception of the Western Sahara, its colonial domain exclusively. The message, in all, seems to be that AQIM has not done enough harm to westerners and Americans to be considered a genuine “threat” to international stability. The social malaise goading on its rise and the group’s attrocities against locals are of special concern.

There are places where Johnson is less problematic.

There is also little evidence that the groups carrying out the violence in the Sahel subscribe to the same world views as Qaeda militants along the AfPak border. The clearly stated objective of the militants in Waziristan, for instance, is the toppling of the nuclear-armed regime in Pakistan. The Sahel gangs, by contrast, have failed to outline a clear rationale for their attacks, and their operations are more like those of small-time criminals than purveyors of ideological hatred bent on regional or global domination, even if their rhetoric includes references to jihad and the “detritus of Afghanistan,” says Vijay Prashad, an expert on the Sahel at Trinity College in Connecticut. The Sahel group, known as Al Qaeda in the Maghreb, is “not a threat on the world stage,” says Prashad. “It has no global ambitions. It doesn’t even seem to have local ambitions. They’ve devolved into a gang.”

That AQIM has no agenda is incorrect. It was, and Johnson would have done well to mention this, a group that broke off from other militant factions in the Algerian Civil War. Its original goal was the overthrow of the Algerian state and its replacement with an Islamic government. Upon adopting the al-Qaeda moniker, it extended this goal to other governments in the region. Its new recruits, mainly from Mauritania but also from other countries in the area, are very often “reformed” criminals, crooks and other riffraff. But it is known that these men are “converted,” as it were, to the group’s interpretation of religion, that they put their skills to go use, either using the group to make money, find something to do or to vent their violent frustrations. Because there is little fighting to do, they mostly end up in the first role, smuggling cigarettes, drugs or stolen car parts and sending the money to the groups central command and pocketing a bit for themselves. Its ambitions are very local, restricted mostly to north-west Africa, the emphasis being on Mauritania and Algeria, though they have some interest in Morocco but little access.

This beggs more steady clarification: AQIM’s interests are local out of circumstance, more than ambition. The border between Algeria and Morocco is locked shut, and the vicinity of the Western Sahara is made largely impenetrable as a result of landmines and heavy policing. The rest of the region is lightly populated, allowing for easy movement and concealment. GSPC’s old strongholds in Algeria are weakening, and smuggling has proved to be a lucrative means of income in the desert for a cash starved movement. It operates very much like a gang, but that is not all it is or all it can be. As of now, it is primarily a region problem and a marginal one at that. Its communiques indicate that it has rather direct goals: to overthrow governments that are not sufficiently Islamic. And in a place where ideology is unimportant at the mass level, this is an unpopular goal. But one does not need a mass following to destabilize or bring down order, he only only needs the right weapons, a good understanding of routines and where power is weakest.

The experts Johnson references (it is hard to call Prashad a Sahel expert, based on his work, but this is Newsweek, after all) support the view that the Sahel is not Af/Pak, and that there are few precedents to the sort of horror one sees there. All this is stated without ever acknowledging that there is practically no one in the US government or military advocating for the increase of US involvement in the region to anything similar to what it is in Af/Pak. His expert quotations take the place of actual illustration of why extremist ideology is unpopular in the region — or why that historic resilience is potentially quite vulnerable. The real issues associated with radicalization in the Sahel (particularly Mauritania) are not so much tribal as urban. The recruits to AQIM have hailed from the cities, not the nomadic regions. So when Johnson quotes the deputy assistant secretary of state for Africa as saying “local tribes ‘do not believe in their ideology,'” this is rather beside the point — even if some AQIM leaders have intermarried into regional tribes, their targets for recruitment are urban people, not those in the countryside. Even if the tribes are not won over to ideology, the logic of tribalism puts them in a place where if a member is convinced and brings conflict to the tribe, the tribe acts as a unit for its own protection — regardless of ideology. From the start, though, AQIM is more interested in dislocated city boys, not tribal-minded youths, as those most removed from the traditional context are the most vulnerable to extremist ideology.

The most important quote in Johnson’s piece comes from Algerian political scientist Yahia Zoubir. Zoubir “[i]f you treat it from a solely security perspective, you’re producing more jihadists,” he says. This is quite true. Johnson however gives us nothing of a means of thinking about the problem in relation to the area’s own context or politics. Rather than treating AQIM as one part of a wider nexus of political and cultural challenges facing the region, Johnson appears to be cautioning against holding terrorism in any regard when looking at the region, a view Prashad has put forth before — arguing that one must examine the dynamism of the region as opposed to being blinded by al-Qaeda. This is fair enough, and is not a wrongheaded view to take.

Newsweek offers readers an article that offers little understanding of the region’s challenges, its relevance in the international order, the real impact of AQIM’s activities or anything else related to the region. It is, however, quite an exaggeration to say that “the policies coming out of Washington suggest that the administration believes the next big threat of terrorist activity comes not from Pakistan or Afghanistan, but from a barren desert in northern Africa populated by a relatively small group of thugs who go by the name of Al Qaeda.” One can find no such policy in place, and the Congressional discourse is not at all indicative of such an approach or worldview. Johson’s piece reads more like a hysterical condemnation of overreach and aggressiveness that would have been more worthwhile in 2003 than today. It cautions against actions neither taken nor in the cards. Johnson should be asking how those with agency can strengthen local institutions against radicalization, in the civil, cultural and economic fields before military ones. Newsweek is disinterested in useful reportage, it would seem.

If Johnson were of the opinion that the Sahel was unimportant internationally, his piece ought to have said this straightforwardly early in the piece and illustrated it for readers. Instead, what he has done is to make a spurious comparison to Af/Pak, make shortsighted blanket statements about the region — without bothering to mention any country’s case specifically — and then to state the obvious but all the while obscuring an accurate picture of the region or the serious troubles facing it.

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18 thoughts on “Newsweek on the Sahel: no news and no use”

  1. Okay, this was a bit of an overkill for a minor Newsweek piece like that, but I’m glad you did it: one of the best pieces I’ve read by you. Really good. Spot on on so many counts, but I’d like to highlight these three:

    The Sahel and Af/Pak are two entirely separate regions with separate geographies and historical contexts. To evaluate the Sahel in terms of Af/Pak yields a moment of relief, but when the region is looked at on its own terms — those of an Algeria not far out of a massive and savage Civil War, restive nomadic populations in Niger, wide and practically all-encompassing poverty, the encroachment on traditional religious customs by the cosmopolitan Islamist ideologies via satellite and eastern missionaries and the emergence of progressively more despotic governments amid popular dissatisfaction — the picture is more clear and the region is more justly prioritized.

    Yes!

    Today, the Sahel, as has been written here and by others, is going through rapid culture change. This has been brought on by urbanization, caused by draught and other natural phenomena, and the rise of television stations like al-Jazeera, al-Arabyia and so forth. This has added a new level of conscious to an area of the Arab and Muslim world that was previously relative isolated from the Islamist trends in the Arab east.

    Yes!

    From the start, though, AQIM is more interested in dislocated city boys, not tribal-minded youths, as those most removed from the traditional context are the most vulnerable to extremist ideology.

    Yes!

    Put those togeter, add the northern Algerian connection (and its function as a link to the diaspora communities of Europe), stir in the now-global ideology of AQIM, and you’ve got the potential threat pretty well framed.

    Here, though, you’re wrong:

    If Johnson were of the opinion that the Sahel was unimportant internationally, his piece ought to have said this straightforwardly early in the piece and illustrated it for readers.

    For you misunderstand the laws of journalism, my friend: then it would not have been printed at all. Telling the truth about long term social and religious evolution processes in a distant country sells no copy, unless editors spice it up with a tongue-in-cheek hint that if you don’t read up on the tribulations of Faroffistan, there might be a hijacked airliner coming your way.

    Finally, your criticisms aside, I was quite gratified that for once someone wrote a piece on the Sahara/Sahel without basing it on Jeremy Keenan’s theory of The Great CIA-DRS-AQ World Domination Plot and its malicious scheme to spend billions of dollars to fuck around with local Touareg for no obvious purpose. But I guess that might not fly with Newsweek editors either.

  2. Got comments to contrary of what says Alle, but lost it. Jeremy Keenan’s conspiracy theory stands. The latest proof is that manipulated tibhirine story, among many others. Will try to redo my comments and send them.

    Perhaps the journalist from Newsweek got fed-up with everyone lying on AQMI. More on this later and good post Kal, but no agree 100%: If you take away Algeria, Mauritania, Mali, Libya, France, the US and Niger (pehaps Morocco with Tourine) playing some dirty game, you will find only decent people smuggling as always some tea, cigarettes Malrboro. Arms and drug, that is new. We did not do this in the 60’s. It is the military and security guys behind it and all of the above countries are involved. They tried to blame Venezuela et the Colombians ont some drug smuggled in Northern Mali. What is worse with the scenario is that the huge plane landed in the town whose mayor is Ould Sheikh, the go-between ransom seekers and ransom payers since the El Para saga. I thought you read the articles from the Mail and Globe of Canada (I dumped here the links).

    1. I read the articles you posted. Will make some comments on that story, but I’ve preoccupied with reading up on the Ould Nagi thing, haven’t been as focused on AQIM in recent weeks, partly because of non-blog projects and trying read up on corruption.

  3. Per a query by Sahelblog, I typed out my entirely too long objections to this critique here:

    http://sahelblog.wordpress.com/2009/11/21/saturday-links-somali-pirates-east-african-community-trade-deal-china-and-senegal/

    after I had previously praised Johnson’s piece.

    Upon reflection, I think I’m a bit over critical of your analysis, primarily because you don’t really deal with Mali or Niger, and I’m sure your analysis of Algeria and Mauritania is well informed and accurate.

    But

    There’s no polite way to say this, and despite my great admiration for your work, where you do attempt to deal with Niger and Mali, you’re just wrong. The argument “Simply because the region has yet to be broadly receptive to extremist ideology does not mean that it cannot be” doesn’t hold up. You can say that about Murmansk. People are stressed out there too.

    And the recent pressures on the areas you’re describing really don’t apply in most of Niger, Mali, Burkina, or Senegal. The changes you describe are not what’s going on there. They have different problems, histories, and different looming crises.

    I thought Johnson’s piece was OK for what it was: a Newsweek article. Have you read analogous periodicals like US News & World Report? They think Sarah Palin is a “savvy politician” . That Johnson didn’t interview someone from the American Enterprise Institute is amazing.

    That it’s dissuading the US from roping West Africa into its “War on Terror” is a damn good thing, and a VAST improvement on his last piece of Africom, in which he just cobbled together press releases from the Pentagon.

    The real threat for nations south of the Sahara in West Africa is not al-Qaida: the inflation of their militaries by some new cold war is. That Johnson added a voice against this process is incredibly welcome.

    1. Tommy Miles:

      You are absolutely correct about Mali and Niger, in that I do not deal with these areas. This post was not intended to deal with either country (or the other countries you mention). My point was that whatever threat exists, it is verifiably concentrated in Mauritania. And I should have been more forward about that and stated it upfront. I pretend no special knowledge of Niger or Mali over the last ten years except what I’ve read in newspapers and books. I should look more into them, as you make very clear. What I can say is that anybody talking about AQIM taking root in Niger is using crack-rocks.

      Your critique of my post over at Sahel Blog is good: it bears out a proper treatment of Mali and Niger in the context of this subject. And I agree that it is good for Johnson to have gone contra the notion that the area is brimming with terrorists and ready to explode, because it isn’t, either in the Arabic-speaking areas or elsewhere. My post was not really reaching for Mali (other than the western part of the country) or Niger, it had the Arabic-speaking areas in mind, because I see these areas as the ones most susceptible to the terrorist issue, to be frank. And to be just as frank I agree entirely with your comments and assessments of those two countries.

      And I agree with you when you write: “the inflation of their militaries by some new cold war”. That is my view of Mauritania, and of Algeria. AQIM is part of a complex of other issues, not one in and of itself. And my view is not that AQIM poses a long term threat to the countries in the region if it is handled in the right way. My basic point is that AQIM is a problem in Algeria and Mauritania, and is mostly the result of ungoverned and un-policed border regions. And it is drawing mostly urban people and people involved in criminal activity, as the article writes and so do I. And barring major disruptions I don’t expect it to balloon into much more than that.

      As for the length: it is a pervasive problem on this blog. I apologize for that.

      I appreciate your critiques both here and at Alex’s blog. They fill the gap that my narrow post leaves with regard to the other states in the region and your expertise and criticism is always welcome and well founded here and on the other blogs on the region. Thanks.

      1. Hi Kal,
        re-re-reading your piece, it IS the threat to Mauritania that leaps out. The more I learn about Mauritania, the more I realize how little I know about the deeper dynamic of the communities there. And your point of demarcation between Arab societies and their southern cousins is a good one. My old Arab history professor (I took all of one course as an undergrad in the late 80s, so there’s little takeaway left) insisted that the interface between these cultures in the Sahel — then exemplified by the Snegal-Mauritania border war — would be a major source of future instability.

        While my own Marxian bent towards reductivism makes me wary of cultural/linguistic/”national” explanations of conflicts, this fault line is undeniable. I think that’s why I find the Tuareg so fascinating as they are so fully enmeshed in both “shores” at once.

        My concerns with Johnson were pretty functionalist but I think I did miss the possibility that Mauritania could surprise the establishment, the way Cote d’Ivoire did. Like that proverbial stable nation of the 1970s and 1980s, I must concede that Mauritania could go from appearing from the outside as closed and quiet to a violent complicated mess rather rapidly. Nations like Senegal and Mali might find themselves on the front line of refugee crises or worse.

        I look forward to reading more about the Mauritanian situation here in the future, as well as your take on the crucial detail raised by Tidinit above, which gets at the heart of the family and government relations that entwine with increasingly globalized crime and corruption networks in that vast wedge of northern Mali.

        While I stress the distance between these cultures, I remind myself and others that the Kounta Arab clans were hugely important power brokers of Timbuktu and southwest from Maccina all the way to the Futa Toro as recently as the mid 19th century. Though a small marginal group now, Malian Arabs are important to that nation’s culture, and their disaffection could have unforeseen consequences.

        As for length: you were trying to make an important point. And you can see that I have problems with succinctness as well!

        Cheers,
        Tommy Miles, NYC

  4. Tommy and Kal, I think this is a great discussion. I’m learning a lot. This point about whether AQIM’s influence is limited to the Arabophone world is definitely worth thinking about.

  5. Excellent analysis, but I have to agree with some of the comments above that the article is after all Newsweek and you can’t expect too much analytical rigor. Re, Vijay, a wonderful guy and on the right analytical trajectory even if he’s not quite there yet on Sahel issues.

    There are a couple of trends that could change AQIM’s profile in the coming years. First is the possibility of a tremendous influx of investment in the region – primarily extractive industries, but also potentially renewables. The second is urbanization, which can cause social disruption – not that urbanization creates poverty which then creates disenfranchisement and sympathy for jihadis, but that the historic social networks fall apart, particularly zawaya, and salafi jihadi networks may fill the breach.

    I wrote on these trends here:

    http://www.ctc.usma.edu/sentinel/CTCSentinel-Vol2Iss11.pdf

    Keep up the good work.

    Geoff

  6. Thanks Kal. Will dump here the article erased by Globe and Mail that I fortunately shared with some friends before it got replaced by a funny Reuters article about Mali’s getting some $$ from AFRICOM. Sorry that I got my comments sometimes lost as I travel too much and getting things sent from airport to airport is difficult. Don’t let this get into the cracks: we need to know the truth.

  7. For the first time, it seems that there is hostage taking in Mauritania.

    URGENT: Des occidentaux kidnappés sur la route Nouakchott-Nouadhibou
    29/11/2009
    Des occidentaux dont le nombre et la nationalité n’ont pas encore été précisés de source officielle , ont été kidnappés la soirée du 29 novembre par un groupe armé sur la route de Nouakchott-Nouadhibou. Aucune information n’est disponible sur l’identité des ravisseurs qui ont commis leur forfait au PK 170 de Nouadhibou, selon les témoignages des automobilistes qui empruntaient cette route au moment des faits. La voiture des occidentaux a été laissée sur place, aprés qu’ils furent contraints de monter dans celle des ravisseurs.

    Les forces armées et de sécurité mauritaniennes ont été aussitôt mises en état d’alerte et plusieurs unités ont été déployées dans la zone.

    Toute reprise totale où partielle de cet article doit inclure la source : http://www.journaltahalil.com

    Réagir à cet article

  8. It looks to me like someone wants make us believe that Newsweek and the New York Times said it all wrong, concerning the AQIM threat. It is unbelievable that after the rapt of the French at the Mali-Niger border, the drug cargo, the crash of the US military plane, no one sees anything until AQIM strikes. If they end up in Northern Mali from where they were taken, I will seriously doubt the thing is not fabricated. I hardly believed that the perpetrators of the Tourine massacre came from and went to Northern Mali, as Tourine is very far from Northern Mali but closer to Sahara.

    Thanks Kal for looking into this puzzle. You rightly said that AQIM will likely concentrate its “efforts” on Mauritania. I hardly believe it as the French put their friend Ould Abdel Aziz in power, are finding gas or oil in Taoudeni, made some peace with likely adversaries in the region such as the US and Algeria (I don’t know the deal). Most importantly, Libya won with the election of Ould Abdel Aziz.

    If the articles from Globe and Mail of Canada on the ordeal of the two canadian hostages is of any use, this kidnapping hapened exactly the same way: nothing was taken from the car, but the hostages.

  9. Good article Dr. Geoff Porter in the CTC Sentinel. Read it three times to have the hard facts sink in. Can this be translated into French? These leaders of ours who are ignorant of things of now and of the future should read that article. You chat with one of them on this Sahel-Sahara security issue, and they ” tapent à coté de la plaque”. Always and invariably. Just check.

    Recents developments are giving credit to what KAL is saying re: the Newsweek article. If this AQIM is not manipulated, with what happened in Mali and Mauritania last week, Europe and the US are under threat. Suffice to read Porter’s article and KAL’s reasonning. One thing is certain: someone is exporting this AQMI mess to Mauritania and if something is not done quickly Mali and Mauritania will become soon Malistan and Mauritanistan. Another observation: any of the two country declare war on AQMI, it is hit in a short time. Niger has never declared war on AQMI and has never been hit by them, besides taking hostage from there. Am I wrong?

    Recent news: a supposed sahraoui blogger (I guess pro-morocco) claiming that the hostage takers of the Spaniards are working with the Polisario. It is of course baloney, but imagine the talk about this wrong info while people eat couscous and drink tea in Nouakchott. No one is taking seriously this war against terror, besides the victims …

  10. Bizarre, bizarre, but happy ending ..

    AFP-01-12-09/20 hrs

    Les 3 humanitaires espagnols abandonnés par leurs ravisseurs en Mauritanie
    mardi 1er décembre 2009

    RABAT — Les trois humanitaires espagnols enlevés dimanche dans le nord de la Mauritanie ont été abandonnés mardi par leurs ravisseurs, a-t-on appris de source sécuritaire marocaine.

    “Les trois otages ont été abandonnés par leurs ravisseurs dans la région d’ Aguouimite, une zone tampon située entre le nord de la Mauritanie et le sud du Sahara occidental”, a indiqué à l’AFP cette source.

    L’un des ravisseurs, répondant au nom de Azzouz, selon la même source, aurait occupé des responsabilités au sein du Front Polisario, mouvement sahraoui armé qui réclame l’indépendance du Sahara occidental.

    “Les otages sont sains et saufs et l’armée mauritanienne est en train de les récupérer”, a indiqué cette source sécuritaire marocaine.

    L’abandon des trois otages par leurs ravisseurs n’a toutefois pas été confirmée jusqu’à présent de source gouvernementale marocaine.

  11. Sorry. Back to square one again.

    ======

    Mauritanie: les trois humanitaires espagnols pas abandonnés par leurs ravisseurs

    Rabat — L’information selon laquelle les trois humanitaires espagnols enlevés dimanche dans le nord de la Mauritanie aient été abandonnés mardi par leurs ravisseurs “est dénuée de tout fondement”, a déclaré mardi soir à l’AFP une source officielle marocaine. “Cette information est de la pure spéculation”, a ajouté cette même source.

    Peu auparavant, une source sécuritaire marocaine avait assuré à l’AFP que les trois humanitaires espagnols “avaient été abandonnés par leurs ravisseurs dans la région d’Aguouimite, une zone tampon située entre le nord de la Mauritanie et le sud du Sahara occidental”.

    “Les otages sont sains et saufs et l’armée mauritanienne est en train de les récupérer”, avait précisé cette source sécuritaire marocaine.

    Les trois volontaires espagnols – deux hommes et une femme – ont été enlevés dimanche sur la route côtière très fréquentée Nouadhibou-Nouakchott, à 170 kilomètres au nord de la capitale mauritanienne, alors qu’ils étaient en voiture en queue d’un convoi organisé par des ONG catalanes.

    Toute reprise d’article ou extrait d’article devra inclure une référence à http://www.cridem.org

    Info source : AFP via Google

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