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Security 2014-07-22

Mali, Morocco boost security collaboration

By Jemal Omar in Nouakchott for Magharebia – 22/07/2014

Morocco and Mali's leaders want to confront joint challenges, represented by the danger of extremist religious discourse and the threat of terrorist groups in the Sahel and Maghreb.

Two hundred Malian soldiers on Sunday (July 20th) left Bamako for training in Morocco.

The three-month programme is part of a security co-operation initiative, which aims to train 600 Malian soldiers and some imams in Morocco.

The soldiers who were sent to Morocco will receive training in counter-terrorism techniques and ways to identify enemies and confront them in open desert areas, RFI quoted a Malian military source as saying.

Meanwhile, 500 Malian imams have already received training in Morocco on tolerant Islam that rejects violence.

This exercise is part of co-operation efforts in various fields, including the exchange of information between the two countries that helped thwart several planned terrorist attacks.

"Since President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita took office, there has been dynamism in relations between Mali and Morocco," Malian journalist Moussa Miga told Magharebia.

He said it was "only natural for the two countries to co-operate in religious affairs to confront the expansion of extremist Salafism, which started to penetrate northern Mali in recent years through al-Qaeda".

"The Malian army needs the experiences of countries that face the same security threats, such as Morocco, which will definitely be more effective," Miga added.

In his turn, Maghreb affairs specialist Noureddine Lachhab said Morocco was a partner for France and Mali in the war on terrorism.

The kingdom is presenting itself as a model in uprooting jihadism and maintaining stability in the region and is, according to observers' testimony, an exception in stability, he explained.

"As proof, Morocco announces every month the dismantlement of a terrorist cell," Lachhab added. "This means that the Moroccan regime is presented to Europeans and Americans as a successful model in eliminating terrorism, which can be exported to neighbouring countries suffering from the scourge of terrorism."

As to the selection of Morocco to provide training for Malian soldiers, the journalist cited the long history of relations between Mali and Morocco.

"Timbuktu was spiritually affiliated to Morocco as residents there used to swear allegiance to the Moroccan sultan," he noted. "Most Malian intellectuals and scholars studied in Morocco at Al Karaouine University or other old schools in the country. Moroccan zawaya also have extensions in Mali."

For his part, Mauritanian researcher Mohamed El Moustapha Ould Bechir linked the dispatch of Mali's soldiers and clerics to the diplomatic moves, which King Mohammed VI recently kicked off in West Africa, including Mali.

The goal, according to the Mauritanian researcher, is to attract Sub-Saharan African countries to a Moroccan partnership in various fields, especially the religious one, in which Morocco is distinguished by its embracement of moderation.

"The establishment of security in Mali means the establishment of security in other Maghreb countries," Mauritanian journalist Mohamed Badin Ahrimo told Magharebia.

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