AQIM Links Dump, Very Short Thoughts

Since this post goes up in the late evening it will include, for now, a few links on recent complications related to AQIM and its offshoot, Jama’at at-Tawhid wa al-Jihad fi Gharbi Ifriqiyya (MOJWA). Some thoughts on these links form the last few weeks may come in the morning; the focus will be on the recent attack and kidnapping on the Mauritanian gendarme post at Addel Begrou and the Algerian advisors sent to Mauritania and Mali, especially if there is new information available. (Sahara Media reports fifteen trainers sent to Mali; El Watan‘s report on this also mentions a joint Polisario-Mauritania anti-terrorism operation on 8 December; the Algerians are also beginning joint patrols with Niger). The Moroccans have also been invited into Sahel security set ups by the Algerians (and the Mauritanians are still moving off toward Algiers, as the expulsion of the MAP correspondent in Nouakchott probably indicates). Brief notes are tucked under links where something can be said immediately. Interesting things going on in the region of late. UPDATED: See after the jump.

  1. Meeting Summary: ‘France and Africa after the Libyan Intervention,’ Chatham House, 26 October, 2011.
  2. ‘Al-Andalus Media presents a new video message from al-Qā’idah in the Islamic Maghrib’s Shaykh Mūlūd Abū Ḥāzim: “Letter to Our Brothers the Amazigh (Berbers)”’ (via Jihadology, 10 December, 2011).
    1. This video message looks like it is aimed primarily at Algerian Berbers (Imazighen), and at that mainly Kabyles, based on the frames of reference and dialect affectations. AQIM operates heavily in Kabylia and it and its predecessor organisations have had important Kabyle (and Chaouis from eastern Algeria) cadres.
  3. ‘Al-Andalus Media presents a new statement from al-Qā’idah in the Islamic Maghrib: “Claiming Responsibility for Kidnapping French Spies and Three Europeans in Mali”,’ (via Jihadology, 12 December, 2011).
  4. Algérie: des dissidents d’Aqmi revendiquent l’enlèvement de trois Occidentaux,’ Jeune Afrique, 12 December, 2011.
  5. Les États du Sahel s’unissent contre Aqmi,’ Jeune Afrique, 19 December, 2011.
  6. Mauritanie: un poste de gendarmerie attaqué, un gendarme pris en otage,‘ Crimem,20 December, 2011.
  7. L’ANP envoie des troupes au Mali et assiste une opération militaire en Mauritanie,’ El Watan, 21 December, 2011.
    1. Recall Abdelkader Messahel’s comments in September (and comments in November) about Algerian troops not being sent into beyond the country’s borders in the Sahel. The Algerians are becoming more directly involved in counter-terrorism efforts on their frontiers, probably the result of the conferences and summits in the third and fourth quarters of 2011, European prodding and the uptick in kidnapping activities and so on. There is probably more of this sort of gradual stuff in the future.
  8. Morocco to join Sahel meetings,‘ Magharebia, 21 December, 2011.
    1. Readers can probably see this is significant for obvious reasons.
  9. Aqmi attaque un poste de gendarmerie en Mauritanie,’ RFI, 21 December, 2011.
  10. Mauritanie: un poste de gendarmerie attaqué, un gendarme pris en otage,’ AFP, 21 December, 2011.
  11. From Sahara Media:
    1. Algerian military in northern Mali to fight against al-Qa’ida,‘ 21 December, 2011.
    2. Break in at a Mauritanian military base in the east of the country and the kidnapping of a soldier,‘ 21 December, 2011.
    3. Five people attack and burn barracks’ offices and cars,‘ 21 December, 2011.
  12. From Al-Akhbar.
    1. Warnings in Nema and a kidnapping of a gendarme in Addel Begrou,‘ 21 December, 2011.
    2. Al-Akhbar publishes detailed information on the soldier kidnapped by al-Qai’da,‘ 21 December, 2011.
    3. The Army penetrates Malian land in search of the kidnappers,’ 22 December, 2011.
    4. Ould Chafi calls for the removal of Ould Abdel Aziz, accusing him of failing to confront terrorism,’ 22 December, 2011.
      1. See also: ‘Ould Chafi accusé d’être derrière UJAO (source malienne),’ Cridem, 22 December, 2011. The Malian source here is quoted as saying ‘Understand me, Mr Chafi is powerful’. No doubt Moustapha Ould Chafi is a powerful fellow and has been involved in plots against Mauritania’s military leaders (with members of the Mauritanian external opposition in the region and as an advisor to rival governments) and in negotiations over hostages in the Sahel but Cridem’s summary presents no evidence regarding the accusation.
  13. From Taqadoumy.
    1. Vehicles storm gendarmerie headquarters in Addel Begrou and kidnapps gendarmes,‘ 21 December, 2011.
    2. Monitoring of fifteen cars suspected of ties with al-Qa’ida between Amourj and Nema,‘ 21 December, 2011.
  14. “Al Vourghan” d’AQMI serait responsable de l’enlèvement du gendarme à Addel Begrou,’ Cridem, 22 December, 2011.
    1. According to this report, the kidnapping at Addel Begrou was carried out by Yahya Abu Hamam group, part of a mission led by Abu Khaled al-Chinguitti (real name al-Maimoun Ould Meinnouh; he was discussed on this blog here and  here, in relation to the Julyclashesat Bassiknou and in Mali) which failed and the attackers decided to attack the gendarme post and take a prisoner to negotiate for AQIM members held by the Mauritanian authorities.
  15. Alger et Bamako décident de renforcer leur coopération militaire contre Aqmi,’ AFP 22 December, 2011.
  16. New Qaeda spin-off threatens West Africa,’ AFP 22 December, 2011.

UPDATE: To add to the narrative on this week’s kidnapping at Addel Begrou in eastern Mauritania teased out in the point below article 14 in the list above, a collage of the various reports (including another from the Algerian paper Le Quotidien d’Oran, which summarises the attack and cites ‘security sources’; its general focus is on the attack in the context of recent security meetings in Mauritania, including the 5+5 meeting at Nouakchott and an agree on aviation security signed with France at Nouakchott, which comes in the context of a new international airport going up in Mauritania and the report links this to new deals singed with Total. Readers should also note the Mauritanians have recently signed a large number of mining deals with a several large firms, including a plot to expand the Kinross Tasiast gold mine in the north and other deals in uranium and iron. There is quite a bonanza going on in the extractive sector, which probably benefits the president by injecting some much needed cash into the country when agriculture and other major areas are suffering.).

In any case:

  1. Al-Akhbar’s updated report with details on the kidnapped gendarme includes a timeline of his life and videos of his mother appealing to al-Qai’dah for his release. According to Al-Akhbar and Sahara Media, his name Ely Ould Mokhtar Ould Laghdaf (اعلي ولد المختار ولد لغظف), born in the village of Um ‘Adham near Timbedra, Hodh ech-Chargui in 1982. He joined the gendarmerie in 1996. He lives with his wife and son in Amrouj in Hodh ech-Chargui while his mother lives in Nouakchott. According to his mother’s testimony he is his family’s only son. He was posted to Addel Begrou three years ago. Al-Akhbar says his family has not received information about his status from the National Gendarmerie. His profile sounds standard for the gendarmerie, who usually have roots in the areas they work in
  2. According Taqadoumy and Le Quotidien the security forces had monitored the vehicles associated with the attack for several days before the assault and kidnapping.   Most summaries of the event say the men overpowered the station, riddled it with bullets, took ammunition (some times they say weapons and ammunition). All reports agree the men came in a single 4X4 truck and that this vehicle had been identified by the authorities at least three days before. Al-Akhbar’s report on the attack says Ould Laghdaf was ‘thrown into a yellow “Land Cruiser” type vehicle’ by five men who shouted ‘Live al-Qa’idah!’ (ta’ish al-Qa’idah تعيش القاعدة)  as they made off, reportedly toward Mali (10 kilometres away, according to Al-Akhbar).
  3. Al-Akhbar’s accounting on the response says the authorities failed to catch the vehicle as it sped out of the country and that the elite units being sent after the attackers are ‘moving slowly in order to avoid ambushes’. The Mauritanians are reportedly targeting the Wagadou Forest, which AQIM has used as a sanctuary before and where the Mauritanians and Malians have previously engaged the group in fighting. Most reports have the Mauritanian air force flying over the Wagadou Forest area ‘scanning in preparation for a ground attack there’ (Al-Akhbar), and that AQIM has focused on securing personnel in case of bombing by the Mauritanians. A Cridem report (summarising a Xinhua report) from 23 December quotes sources referring to a fifteen truck convoy (also mentioned in Taqadoumy’s later reporting), from Mali into Mauritania (heading from Lere to Fassala). It quotes another source saying the operations against AQIM are going out of Nema, which makes sense given the location and Nema’s military base. It also talks about a clash between the Mauritanians and  smaller group of AQIM fighters being bombed by the Mauritanian air force.
    1. Magharebia reports on an alternative theory to the one mentioned in the report from point 14 and 14(1) above; that the break away faction, MOJWA could be responsible, except it says the main support for this would be the group’s claim to expand its jihad in the region, though the recent attack is within AQIM’s traditional raiding area in eastern Mauritania and if the accounts of witnesses are to be believed and the attackers fled into Mali and then the Wagadou Forest, as other assume, it would be less likely MOJWA was responsible. Neither group has yet claimed responsibility of the attack and kidnapping. (The Magharebia report is also a good, fast summary.)
    2. See also these two reports: One on the Polisario fighters and drug traffickers clashing in Mauritania and other related intrigues in northern Mali. The other is on ‘bandits’ using military and police uniforms while robbing people and engaging in other criminal activity.
  4. Cridem has also published a short report from the AFP on the growing row between Morocco and Mauritania, mentioned in previous posts on this blog here and here. It goes back to some of the issues raised earlier: the struggle over the African UN Security Council seat (the Mauritanians lost that to Morocco and Togo, and the Moroccans were seen to have been especially aggressive and nasty in their campaign for the seat on the Mauritanian side) the recent rapprochement with Algeria and so on. The expulsion of the Maghreb Arabe Presse (MAP) correspondent in Nouakchott (Abdelhafid Bekkali) has been seen a part of all this; the correspondent was reportedly given twenty-four hours to leave the country on orders from Mauritania’s Direction de la surveillance du territoire (DST) rather than the Ministry of Communications or Information which tend to have authority on press issues. The correspondent was accused of operating without proper accreditation and for ‘behaviour not consistent with his profession [journalism]’. According to Journal Tahalil, Mauritanian press associations condemning the expulsion have said Bekkali does have accreditation and has lived in Nouakchott with his family for two years. From there it seems the authorities’ viewed MAP correspondent promoting ‘political messages’ in favour of Morocco’s line and against the Mauritanian authorities. An anonymous source quoted in the report says the journalist was ‘usually accredited’ and had been working in the country for some time and if his behaviour was unprofessional, he would have been expelled before now. Taqadoumy reports on a cable allegedly distributed to official Moroccans in Nouakchott about a ‘unprecedented’ sums of money being moved from Mauritania into Morocco (for purchasing real estate) by a relative of President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz ‘under the guise of an official, who is named in the cable. Taqadoumy’s source says the President saw the cable, took offence and reacted by expelling the MAP correspondent. This account would indicate tension in the relationship already existed and Ould Abdel Aziz, who is known to have a hot temper and to respond harshly to criticism, acted in this context and escalating tensions with Morocco. For this to have been the case, the cable would have had to be derisive or offensive (or just have piqued cues in Ould Abdel Aziz’s head associated with the broader relationship and accusations about nepotism and corruption from his critics in the domestic press and opposition). The relationship to the correspondent is not directly spelled out. In any case, Mauritanian journalists have reacted negatively, condemning the order and defending Bekkali, interpreting it as an attack on a member of the press that could lead to more restrictions on their work.

5 thoughts on “AQIM Links Dump, Very Short Thoughts

  1. Kal,

    Another thank is not enough. Even millions of thanks not enough. If you did not exist, the world had to make you exist. Choukran ya habibi. Merry Xmas and Happy New 2012 to you and All. Hope the world be better next year. Sorry if I made some mistaken statements in 2011, but we need sometimes people who question ” agreed beliefs” . I will continue to do so.

  2. . Rycerz skrzywił się. Naturalnie pogański owe sitters włodarz, cierpieć trochę takiego
    u dołu samym zamkiem. Satelita zachodził już.
    Straże nawoływały się w pewnej mierze rzadziej.
    Termin była zaskoczyć w największym stopniu.

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