Security offensives trigger AQIM rift
By Jemal Oumar from Nouakchott for Magharebia – 07/02/12
Stepped-up military operations and intelligence penetrations have sown panic among al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) leaders, security analysts say.
In less than a month, Mohamed Ghadir (aka Abdelhamid Abou Zeid), the "Tariq ibn Ziyad" katibat boss, killed 30 Mauritanian members of the battalion, Ennahar reported on January 26th. The terrorist, who is sentenced to death in Algeria, suspected them of working for Mauritanian intelligence.
The "merciless and barbaric" act prompted "a sense of repulsion among young men working under him", according to the Algerian paper.
"Many Mauritanian young men, members of the terrorist group, have recently abandoned their ideas of engaging in terrorist operations against their country," Ennahar quoted analyst Zain Al-Abidin as saying. "However, the fear of ending up in jail, on the one hand, and the temptation of receiving financial bonuses, on the other, still prevent them from fleeing the desert."
According to Al-Abidin, international religious moderation seminars that featured Mauritanian Muslim figures are among the factors that spur young people to "seek a way out and rejoin their communities and households".
"Terrorist leaders no longer trust even their closest partners," Ennahar editorialised. "They constantly fear someone would blow the whistle on them, especially after some took part in planning to annihilate the 'grey matter' of the clique, by supplying security authorities with the necessary information on the movements of certain members, which led them right into the hands of the police."
For their part, Mauritanian observers viewed the information published by Ennahar as "proof of the success of successive military operations led by the Mauritanian army and its endeavours to besiege the group by shutting down many exists," analyst Mokhtar Salem said.
"It is also a sign showing the group is growing weak," he added.
Salem said, "The developments and the successive actions of field states only foreshadow continued pressure on the terrorist group, through the recent agreement by foreign ministers of field states in Nouakchott to allocate a budget in order to maintain intelligence consistency, being an effective tool in combatting terrorism and countering the recurrent problem of kidnapping foreign nationals."
"Since October, Mauritanian Intelligence has embarked on mobilising enormous potential to recruit local and foreign resources, so as to provide Mauritanian security authorities with information on the plans of al-Qaeda and its channels of communication within the country. Recruited agents are given fancy cars and hefty amounts of money," analyst Mohamed Ould Zein told Magharebia.
Security authorities passed their agents off as "traders, developers, smugglers and sometimes even jihadists, so they could convey a clear picture of what was going on in areas in the Sahara outside the reach of governments", according to Ould Zein.
He added that foreign detectives were also trained and dispatched to northern Mali.
Some of the recruits, however, may "play as double agents", analyst Mohamed Ould Al-Akel said.
They "will offer al-Qaeda information," he said. "Others, however, only give them information to prove their allegiance and ward off suspicions."
AQIM managed to penetrate Mauritanian territories a number of times, the latest of which was the abduction of a Mauritanian gendarme at the end of last year.
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