Trials and Visits

Here are some highlights and thoughts from the last week in Mauritania (another post on issues beyond what is below is coming down the pipeline):

Five of nineteen Mauritanians on trial for terrorism charges were sentenced this week. Among the nineteen are Sidi Ould Sidina, Mohamed Ould Chabarnou and Maarouf Ould Hiba who stand accused of murdering four French tourists at Aleg in 2007 who will go on trial on Sunday. The men are discussed here, here and here. In addition, one of the group’s prominent ideologues, Brahim Ould Ely (“Saharaoui”) was sentenced to ten years in prison. Others managed lesser terms and hard labor. One was acquitted. The sentences are relatively light, though some feel the process was unfair or in the words of Sheikh Mohamed Hassan Ould Dedew, “unjustand “contrary to the President and the atmosphere of dialogue”. Aqlame published an article on 18 May declaring that “Dialogue is Futile,” writing that “has the government has backtracked on its approach to dialogue” and questioning the government’s involvement with the “global war on terrorism”. It concludes by worrying that the government is “returning to the first position of taking any open confrontation with al-Qaeda, relying on force alone to achieve victory.” Depending on Ould Sidina, Chabarnou and Ould Hiba’s sentences, it will be more clear as to where the government stance with regards to these criticisms and its relationship to the Islamist tendency (which it has been cultivating since last winter).

In news related to AQIM, France is widely believed to be pressuring Mauritania into releasing prisoners to get the terrorist group to release a Frenchmen kidnapped in Niger . This is said to be one of the main purposes of Alan Joyandet’s (the French Minister of Cooperation and Francophonie) visit to Mauritania earlier in the week. The French would like the Mauritanians to do a deal similar to Mali’s earlier this year.

Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the famous tele-Sheikh, is visiting Mauritania this week. He is the guest of Sheikh Dedew, which greatly increases Dedew’s credibility within the religious movement and beyond. It also distracts some attention from the The pair have made and will make several appearances together, including one at the Olympic stadium in Nouakchott. Qaradawi’s remarks one such event touched on a variety of subjects including economic development, “the force of Islamic civilization,” the importance of the Muslim diaspora (specifically mentioning China), the need for Muslim unity, Qur’an recitation competitions and so on. He was met by President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz on arrival, and praised the president for shutting down the Israeli embassy and his “interest in social justice and the poor”. The video of this reception can be seen below.

General Mohamed Ould Ghazouani hosted a dinner for Qaradawi. Ould Ghazouani is one of the main centers of power in the regime (easily the second most powerful officer) and the dinner represents the government’s attempt to establish and maintain bona fides with the religious tendency. Like much of the population, Ould Ghazouani’s tribe, many members of which are important patrons of the religious movement, was excited for the occasion. Qaradawi enjoys a wide following in Mauritania. Ould Abdel Aziz’s and Ould Ghazouani’s public associations with him are designed to improve the regime’s standing with the religious movement and the population at large by projecting an image of piety and populism.

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10 thoughts on “Trials and Visits”

  1. Kal,

    Interesting piece on where Al Qaida stands today, statistically. From Foreign Policy. I juste note that AQIM is not part of Al Qaida allies. This coming from Foreign Policy is good news. This means that this AQIM business is all fabricated. FARQAIDA, the French agents secrets kidnapped one after the other and released, the same two people who are involved in negotiating releases through payment of ransoms since El Para adventure, the Spanish hostages who went into thin air from Nouadhibou to Northern Mali, the Fowler-Guay saga, the air cocaines (three according to the Algerians – November 2009, January & February 2010), hostage takers found only when there is a ransom to be paid with the blessing from some heads of state, Flintlock 2010 and the small NATO in Tamanrasset both interested in securing the TSGP (they are not talking about the Spanish hostages, although Spain is embedded into Flintlock 10), only Algerian emirs managing AQMI like there is no other crazy leader to be found in Mauritania, Mali or Niger and we know there are plenty of them. The only bizarre thing is the murder of the British hostage (forgot his name)and the only explanation that may hold is that of Jeremy Keenan and he knows the stuff more than lot of people.

    Is not adding AQIM intentional or not?

    I am lost and only the conspiracy theorists like Keenan, Gèze and other Mellah give some explanation. Note Algiers has not talked about Flintlock for a week or so (they were against it and are they still?).

    Read your piece on Al-Majlissi and it is still relevant today. Below the link to the full article from Foreign Policy and below it what raised my hairs.

    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/04/26/the_almanac_of_al_qaeda?page=0,0

    Al Qaeda Allies
    Taliban
    Members: 25,000 in Afghanistan; tens of thousands in Pakistan
    Leader: Mullah Omar
    There are some 25,000 fighters in Afghanistan and tens of thousands in Pakistan, but just 10 percent of the population in those countries supports the movement. In Pakistan, the Taliban fund their endeavors by raising tens of millions of dollars through kidnapping, bank robberies, extortion, and illegal taxes on gems, timber, and local minorities. On the other side of the border, intelligence agencies think the Taliban in Afghanistan receive between $70 million and $300 million a year from the country’s lucrative poppy crops and about $106 million in annual donations from foreign sources — probably from the Persian Gulf.
    Al Qaeda in Iraq
    Members: At its peak, several thousand Iraqis, plus 100 foreign-fighter imports per month
    Leader: Abu Omar al-Baghdadi (killed outside Tikrit on April 18, 2010 — succesor unknown)
    Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) was formed in October 2004 when Jordanian ex-convict Abu Musab al-Zarqawi swore allegiance to bin Laden on behalf of his militant group, Tawhid wal Jihad (Monotheism and Jihad). Zarqawi was killed in a U.S. airstrike in June 2006, and today AQI operates as the Islamic State of Iraq. The former titular head of AQI, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi (killed outside Tikrit April 18, 2010), was a mysterious figure who may have been a persona designed to give the group a more Iraqi flavor. His successor is unknown. Since its strongest moment in 2006 and 2007, AQI has been driven underground by Sunni tribal militias, U.S. military pressure, and Iraqi security forces.
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula
    Members: Between 200 and 300
    Leader: Nasir Abd al-Karim al-Wahayshi
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula skyrocketed to fame late last year with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s failed Christmas Day attack. Now just over a year old, the branch was officially formed when the Saudi and Yemeni al Qaeda affiliates merged because of intense Saudi government pressure on al Qaeda in the kingdom. The group’s leader, Nasir Abd al-Karim al-Wahayshi, is a thirty something Yemeni who fought in Afghanistan during the December 2001 battle of Tora Bora and is thought to have worked directly for Osama bin Laden.

    1. I agree. It’s a hit job on the Polisario, not an actual appraisal of the situation. I recently read another paper, similar in tone but out of a more credible outlet (possibly Jamestown but I’m not sure), that had AQIM types flushing the camps out of young men because jihadi ideology was replacing Marxism-Lenninism and the Polisario “always” had some connection or joy for jihadi ideas. All of it ignores the local traditions of the tribes and seems to be informed by Moroccan sources. The problem is obvious: the Moroccans are spending a lot of money to make baseless propaganda and hurt those actually trying to get a grip on the terrorist problem in the region and the camps especially. I was told not long ago by one source that the Polisario knows they have a problem but not that many Sahraouis have actually left the camps. Another Polisario-linked source said they have some sort of program designed to ID jihadi recruiters and “deal with them”. In any case, the reports coming out on the issue are greatly exaggerated and make the Moroccans look pretty bad.

      1. Hi guys,
        I was looking to get some real info on what is the true relation between Aqim and Polisario. Since it is nar impossible to find info on the web that isn’t tilted/biased/skewered/fabricated by one side or the other, I thought perhaps I could get some here. Aqim and Polisario must have had quite a bit of contact over the last ten years since they are operating in the same region. And both active in smuggling.
        Now there is an obvious need for Polisario to distance themselves from terrorists, but at the same time it is not easy for them to claim they have no interaction whatsoever.
        What is your take on it Kal? Is it true that Ould Hamma and others with close relations or belonging to Aqim have a background with Polisario? As leaders? And if they do, is that enough to implicate Polisario as an organization?

  2. @priffe

    Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

    I don’t think there is any official contact between Polisario and AQIM. I don’t think there is any evidence on the Ould Hamma case or any of the other instances of Saharawi involvement in AQIM to implicate the Polisario as an organization. There is a lot of propaganda coming out recently from Moroccan lobbyists, sympathizers, etc. trying to link Polisario and AQIM, which I think is very worrisome. My take is that links between Polisario and AQIM are vastly exaggerated, but there are some Saharawis that are involved with it but I would extremely surprised if there was any official, semi-official or any other kind of official relation from the Polisario dealing with AQIM in a friendly way.

  3. Priffe,

    Kal’s opinion is mine too after being victimized by the Moroccan propaganda for some time. Abdel Aziz the Sahrawi will not do things to harm Mauritania and Mali. Morocco is not really concerned by AQIM for the time being as the misdeeds from AQIM have no direct “link” to the Sahara issue.

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