Mali, Mauritania, and AQIM

Despite periodic attempts at regional coordination in the Sahel and North Africa on issues of terrorism, Sahelian governments are not always on the same page when it comes to dealing with AQIM.

Bamako, Mali

On Sunday, Mali freed four “Al Qaeda combatants,” meeting a demand made by kidnappers holding Pierre Camatte, a Frenchman. AQIM also holds three Spanish aid workers kidnapped in Mauritania in December.

Mali felt they had “to do everything we could to save the life of the Frenchman,” but Mauritania’s government expressed strong displeasure at the move, and recalled its ambassador from Bamako.

The release of the prisoners prompted anger in Nouakchott, where the foreign ministry said the move was “surprising”, given that one of those released is wanted in Mauritania.

“Mauritania, while expressing its condemnation and rejection of this measure, has decided to recall its ambassador to Bamako for consultation,” Mauritania’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

“This non-cordial measure taken by the Malian authorities harms age-old relations between the two countries.

“Above all it’s a flagrant contradiction of judicial cooperation accords and security coordination agreements,” between the neighbours, the ministry said.

Mauritanian authorities argued that Mali should have handed over at least one of the prisoners in question rather than freeing him.

Is Mali in the wrong? Abandoning Camatte to execution would be a weighty move; I personally would be extremely reluctant to do so. But Mauritania has strong arguments on its side; I do not know enough to evaluate the legal context, but one might certainly contend that freeing AQIM fighters will in the long run exacerbate problems of kidnapping and violence, not solve them.

The biggest challenge for regional counterterrorism strategies, though, appears to be the lack of coordination between governments. Whatever strategy they adopt, it would be more effective if they adopted it together.

3 thoughts on “Mali, Mauritania, and AQIM

  1. Alex,

    I personally believe that Mali has done the right thing: saving the life of an innocent hostage. If I were him, I will release all the AQIM followers in my jails. I don’t know why Mauritania is making a fuss over the release of 4 terrorists by a sovereingn state? Mauritania has sent 3 spanish hostages to Mali and blaming ATT to have released someone who can be slaughtered? Here Mauritania is trying to please Algiers over her alleged leaning towards Morocco on the Sahara issue ?. Who is stupid to believe that Abdel Aziz will go against France (Kouchner & Guéant) that helped him to stick to power?

    If I were ATT or anyone else, I would ask the unhappy ones a simple question: why have they always refused to come and sit with ATT to discuss the measures needed to deal with AQIM, drug traficking and the rest? ATT called for the conference several times and no one accepted to come. Some did not want because they were manipulating the whole thing, be it Algeria, France, the US, Mauritania, Niger, etc.. They manipulated this whole thing so much that they don’t agree now on how to run this business of mischief. Look at the press attacks from Algiers: not a single word on the US that everyone knows they are there between Tamanrasset and Gao. You think that the kidnappers will take three spaniards and two italians and rush into the US and French forces there? No José, unless all is arranged.

    Look at the map: how the Spanish hostages went from the Mauritanian coast (Nouadhibou) to Northern Mali (some 3,000 km) whitout being stopped and/or dealt with?

  2. Pingback: Mali: Camatte Released, Algeria Recalls Ambassador « Sahel Blog

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