Maghreb states seek co-operation against terrorism
By Walid Ramzi for Magharebia in Algiers – 14/10/10
Terrorism analysts highlight that economic and social remedies, along with joint military effort, could boost security in the region. According to Dr. Lies Boukraa, director of the African Centre for Studies and Research on Terrorism (CAERT) in Algiers, the strength of AQIM lies in the weakness of Sahel countries and lack of co-operation.
"The elimination of al-Qaeda is possible within a few months, contrary to what the West is trying to show," Boukraa said. The expert emphasised underdevelopment as one of the root causes of radicalisation, adding that when the problems of poverty and hunger are solved, there would be no room for recruitment in the ranks of al-Qaeda.
He pointed out that at least 50 tons of heroin are transported via the Sahel region and 100 million euros are smuggled every year, adding that AQIM collected 70 million euros in ransom in recent years, which makes it budget bigger than that of some Sahel countries.
"The main factors aggravating terrorism in the region are domestic, including absence of democracy and a tutelage approach in dealing with citizens," Abdelaziz Hariti, president of the Algerian Humanitarian Relief Association, said.
"Sahel countries have enough political will to manage their security but social, ethnic and religious problems as well as lack of development projects are among the key reasons that made the Sahel region prone to security vulnerabilities," Mohamed Khetaoui, a specialist in politics, commented.
"African countries' failure to confront terrorism made Algeria act militarily to cleanse the region of that scourge," Sadek Bouguetaya, a diplomat, said, adding that other countries can learn from Algerian experience.
Meanwhile, some analysts believe that co-ordination between Sahel countries is still lacking. Mohamed Smiem, an academic specialising in security affairs, told Magharebia that the differences between the countries are "mainly related to methods of running the military operations against al-Qaeda in the region".
In an attempt to enhance security co-ordination between across the region, the leaders of Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Mali and Chad held a consultative meeting on the sidelines of the Arab-African Summit in Sirte, Libya, Sunday (October 10th.) They addressed the political and security developments in the Sahara-Sahel region.
Security specialist Houcine Boulahia described the meeting as "a good chance to overcome the differences that have recently appeared" between the Sahel leaders.
In the meantime, Algeria kicked off a large-scale anti-terror awareness campaign. Algerian ambassador in the United States Abdallah Baali met with Daniel Benjamin, US State Department counter-terrorism co-ordinator, to discuss cooperation in fighting terrorism in the region.
The Algerian government is making efforts to prevent the marginalisation of local youths and their recruitment by terrorist groups. The Interior Ministry has recently replaced local officials in the southern border provinces to inject a momentum into the development projects.
In an interview with Algeria's French-speaking El Watan October 11th, Amenokal of Algeria's Touaregs denied that Touareg tribe members joined al-Qaeda but he confessed that controlling young people has become extremely difficult because of their financial demands.
On the same note, former fighters in Touareg movement in northern Maki said Saturday (October 9th) that they were ready to fight AQIM in the African Sahel. Ahmed Agh Bebe, spokesperson for the former rebels and member of Mali's National Assembly, said in a statement to AFP that he and his group were waiting for the "green light from the Malian government to expel AQIM" from the African Sahel.
He commented that if they were armed, they would be able to defeat AQIM quickly within the framework of the Algiers Accord which was signed in June 2006 and ended 20 years of fighting between the Touareg rebels and the Malian government and envisioned establishing special army units to maintain security in northern Mali.
Those fighters are pinning hopes on the Malian government to create job opportunities through the implementation of the Algiers Accord in return for their defence of the country.
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