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Prior to the start of the military exercise Flintlock 2010, the United States Embassy in Mali held last Monday, 19 April a press luncheon to brief journalists on the issue. Lunch during which they spoke by phone with Max Blumenfeld, Communications Officer Command American in Europe.
ALGIERS, April 20 (Reuters) - Four Sahara desert states will on Wednesday open a joint command headquarters in the south of Algeria to coordinate efforts to counter a growing threat from al Qaeda, the Algerian Defence Ministry said.
Western countries say that unless the region's fractious governments join forces to fight the insurgents, al Qaeda could turn the Sahara desert into a safe haven along the lines of Yemen and Somalia and use it to launch large-scale attacks.
The announcement of the new base followed a ground-breaking meeting last month of senior officials from the region's neighbouring governments that was praised by the United States as a step towards collectively confronting al Qaeda.
A western security official who follows the region closely said enhanced cooperation had been made urgent by several recent cross-border incidents.
In March, army patrols from Algeria and Mali clashed by mistake for several hours near their common border before realizing neither were terror groups, the official said. Speaking on condition of anonymity because he works on intelligence matters, the official said army units in the Sahara sometimes have difficulties knowing which country they are in because there are often no landmarks along the border and they lack radio equipment to link with each other.
The new command center aims at much more than just securing the borders, said M'hand Berkouk, a Sahara expert who teaches international relations at Algiers university.
"It's really the first time in Africa that a sub-region decides to integrate its security operations," Berkouk said.
The goal will be to launch joint simultaneous operations in partner states and create a common database of terror suspects and traffickers.
...Liberté called the "Ennasr" (Victory) offensive Algeria's largest anti-terror military operation since the 2005 Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation.
On Tuesday, local sources in the wilayas of Bouira and Bordj Bou Arreridj told Magharebia that the offensive had "neutralised" around a dozen terrorists. They also said that a key AQIM leader, Abdelmalek Droukdel, appeared to be among the terrorists hemmed in by the soldiers.
A number of other terrorist groups are also believed to have been cornered, according to the sources, and significant military reinforcements have been deployed in all parts of Algeria's eastern, western and central regions.
According to Liberté, security forces have gathered important intelligence regarding terrorist movements. The operation being carried out between Bouira and Bordj Bou Arreridj was made possible by intelligence gleaned from a recently-disbanded terrorist support network.
The military training in Burkina Faso, the armies of the countries of West Africa, within the framework of the fight against terrorism, began yesterday. These military endorsement that were planned to start at the beginning of next May, began early, at the request of the United States for unknown reasons. Moreover, what is surprising is that the early training coincided with the same day of the creation of the General Staff of the Sahel countries combined in Tamanrasset.
The heads of state of major countries of the Sahel, comprising Algeria, Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Chad have decided at their last meeting held in Tamanrasset, increase the number of actual forces responsible the fight against terrorism 25-75000 components, within 18 months. According to informed sources, the heads of major states have agreed to strengthen security measures and control over drug trafficking, fuel and other devices used by terrorists, like GPS, adding that military units will be established across several strategic sites scattered across the Sahara. Their main mission is the monitoring of slopes Saharan and substitute the inability of air forces in Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad.
Fight against terrorism in the Sahel: The Military Command based in Tamanrasset
The Committee Staff Joint Operational between Algeria, Mali, Mauritania and Niger will be installed today in Tamanrasset.
Announced by a statement from the Department of National Defence, the creation of this committee was determined after the meeting of army chiefs of Mauritania, Algeria, Mali and Niger, in Tamanrasset, held 12 and August 13, 2009, in order to "coordinate" the operations against terrorist groups operating in border regions.
The United States and the African Union want to deepen their ties
The meeting between the U.S. and Africa, with the objective of strengthening peace and security in the continent, has been marked by the convergence of views on both sides on many issues, such as development, global warming and the fight against terrorism including through the refusal to pay ransom because they are a means of financing terrorism.
In the Issikta article cited by Ulrich it is also mentioned that
"...one month after the announcement in Sirte, Libya, following a meeting which was attended by Algeria, Mali, Niger and Libya, setting up a joint force of 25,000 men, including 5,000 Malian Tuareg, charged with hunting down terrorists."
The announced size of the force is impressive, and the integration of Malian touaregs seems a key factor to success. This is where the Mali government have repeatedly failed, integrating touaregs in the army and power structure in general. Which is of course also a failure of the touaregs. Takes two to tango.
Now Malian touaregs will work out of Tam? Interesting.
The ability to work across the borders should make a difference.
The Issikta blog also reports that AQIM in the desert consists of around 470 individuals divided into three fractions, led by MBM, Abu Zeid and the latter's deputy Abu Zahia forming the third unit with around 20 people. Centered in the regions of Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal respectively.
This rhymes with what I have been told elsewhere and also read here before.
Issikta also writes that Abu Zeid is weak and unable to perform many kidnappings, and that MBM is behind mosy of them, including the proposed one near Niger/Alg border Wednesday evening.
Journal Tahalil like the other magazines/newspapers etc like El Watan or El Khabar rely on specific sources (often it seems only one or a few nameless individuals) leading to a dizzying multitude of accounts of what is really going on.
In this article :::Journal Tahalil Hebdo::: concerning the kidnapping in Niger of one French and one Algerian, they suggest that there are four distinct groups within AQIM in the desert Al Ansar
The armed group called "Al Ansar" and sign its first constitution after its removal mid-2009, we learn generally well informed source. The other three groups AQIM ("Tariq", "El Moulethemine" and "El Vourghane"), had all the past-and-operated in this kidnapping, directly or indirectly. El Vourghane "headed by" Abu Yahya Al Hamam "held recently released the Italians against the likely payment of a" ransom raised to 8 million euros due to the Mauritanian authorities refused to release their comrades held in Mauritania, "reveals our source.
And according to El Khabar
"Katibat Taregh ibn Ziyad" , "Katibat El Moulethemine " , " El Seriyatt Vourghane " and "Ansar Al Seriyatt" form combat units in the emirate of Sahara (Imaratou Are sahra) of Al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in South Zone: the Sahara-Sahel , which stretches north-east of Mauritania until the... Somalia ....Hamid Essouffi is involved in several attacks that have targeted military Mauritanian Lemghetiy to Ghallawiya ; and Tourine where he ordered the beheading of Mauritanian soldiers murdered.
There has been an array of opinion on STF about the usefulness of the command centre in Tam. Here's my view.
For the counter-insurgency (COIN) to be successful, the command centre is vital. This is why. AQIM make excellent use of the borders in the Sahara (esp Mali, Niger, Alg) - making a hit in one country before crossing back to another. This seems to have been an explicit tactic of theirs. The borders may be imaginary on the ground but they are real politically. If the Algerians, for example, were to do a follow up/hot pursuit of the insrugents from southern Algeria into N Mali without getting permission from Mali first, it would amount to an invasion of Mali by Algeria and would spawn a diplomatic incident. But if the joint command centre is working properly, authority to do the hot pursuit can be obtained as quickly as it takes to radio a message to and from the centre. Default permission for various kinds of follow ups may even be established in principle, so that explicit permission is unnecessary. In that way the hot pursuit can continue seemlessly across borders in the region - just what is needed for the COIN ops to be successful.
The Algerians have the kit to do hot pursuits. The Russian made Mi-24 chopper is perfect and Algeria has many. In the Sierra Leone civil war, just one of these machines held off a major rebel attack on the capital and saved hundred, maybe thousands of lives. There were no ground forces to help that day (the UN troups were too scared to come out of the bases). The pilot only returned to base once every warning light on the flight panels was glowing. These machines can handle a lot of grief.
Added to the hot pursuit by chopper - it helps a lot to have stopper groups in place on the ground. The Malian military could be useful here.
So the joint command centre doesn't have to do that much - it really just has to be in place to give permissions on the ops at the crucial times. Without a joint command centre, this really isn't possible.
"In the same wake, Mali will increase its forces in 8000 elements, while Niger contributes with 5000 elements. They will be responsible for monitoring and border surveillance. For its part, Mauritania will raise its forces from 15 to 20,000 items. In addition, the office of security coordination between the armies of the Sahel countries, located in the wilaya of Tamanrasset has been promoted to an aerial command authority to issue orders and monitor military operations in case of emergency and transmit a request for emergency coverage."
"In this sense, the security services involved in the fight against terrorist groups in the Sahel region have established a list containing the names of most dangerous terrorists belonging to Al Qaeda in the Sahel-Saharan Africa. It consists of 37 wanted persons
Sorry, a little bit off topic, but the news website MALIWEB is a great website for us Sahara lovers, but you will most likely pick up a spyware file if you use this site. The file is called "Bloodhound" and is not considered a major threat, but somebody else talked about this on the Kidal Information forum. Just a warning if your computer isnt protected. Everytime I open the maliweb page I get a warning from Symantec that the site is trying to hack my PC.
AQIM has hit just 24 hours after the official inauguration, April 21 at Tamanrasset, a committee of Staff joint operational between Algeria, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. A command which wants an "early implementation" of resolutions taken ...
Twenty-four suspected terrorists were arrested in Rabat, said Monday, April 26 the Ministry of Interior of Morocco. They are members of a terrorist network considered close to Al-Qaeda and were preparing to "take action", according to a ministry statement. This network "about to commit crimes and acts of sabotage against the security and interests in Morocco," explains the text.
The statement also indicates that those arrested were in possession of "gun" and ammunition to a police officer attacked in Casablanca, and several knives seized by security forces. Among the group members, four are former Moroccan prisoners, who had been convicted for acts of terrorism committed in the kingdom.
This small group of Moroccan militants recruited to send "to areas of tension, particularly in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and the Sahel-Saharan Africa", according to preliminary results of the investigation made public.
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