New information seems to highlight the criminal, rather than ideological and terrorist, aspects of the recent Mauritania kidnappings.
There is a disinterest in whole affair in official and elite circles. The overall attitude looks for “more pressing problems” unrelated to the kidnappings. The chief concern, as far as the kidnappings are concerned, is Mauritania’s image, which many believe is suffering as a result of recent AQIM activities.
Well placed Mauritanian sources have it that the kidnappers were not Mauritanians and were not regular AQIM members. Rather the kidnappers were hired guns of multiple west African nationalities (Nigerians being mentioned specifically; it is also said that a least one of the kidnappers was a non-Muslim Nigerian) who were put up to doing the kidnapping for cash. From those hands they were transfered to AQIM in Mali.
That information forces one to ask questions about AQIM recruitment and operation capabilities. For those committed to the government-proxy theory it raises suspicions, given that the kidnappers came from outside Mauritania (and were not from the desert countries). Additionally, for those less attached to the proxy thesis, it raises a number of tactical and operational questions, especially its reach in the south and its connections to international criminal networks in west Africa and perhaps even beyond. More yet to come.