Update on Mauritania’s Hunt for AQIM

Last week, Mauritanian forces intercepted a three-car convoy of AQIM suspects who may have been attempting either to assassinate Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz or to attack the French embassy in Nouakchott. Mauritanian soldiers arrested the occupants on one car and exploded another, but several suspects remained on the loose until Saturday.

A suspected member of al Qaeda’s north African wing blew himself up in southern Mauritania on Saturday after security forces cornered him, according to army and national guard sources.

A second suspect was captured alive in the incident in the remote Brakna region, near the border with Senegal, they said.


The national guard source said the two militants on Saturday were discovered after local people alerted authorities. He said Senegalese forces had raised security along the border to prevent them from escaping.

I am glad that the suspects did not make it to Senegal, as some feared last week. According to this document from the Congressional Research Service (.pdf, p. 9), AQIM “has attempted to set up transit points and facilitation networks in Senegal, though it has not launched attacks there. The State Department reported that Senegalese authorities ‘cooperated with the United States to identify terrorist groups operating in Senegalese territory,’ but that Senegal ‘lacked specific counterterrorism legislation and current laws made it difficult to prosecute terrorist suspects’.”

Mauritanian forces appear to have successfully foiled this plot.


13 thoughts on “Update on Mauritania’s Hunt for AQIM

  1. Isn’t it surprising the sudden rise in competence of the Mauritanian army, that now they seem quite capable of countering Aqim attacks? Where Aqim used to ambush and behead Mauri and Niger soldiers at will, there is now for the first time a serious pushback.
    Can someone explain how this came about? Is it the training by the French that has finally paid off? There has been little success to show for operation Flintlock, the training of soldiers in Mali or Niger.
    I wonder what strategical changes for Aqim this will lead to.

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  3. Hello Priffe. It takes only political commitment from the top and support to the military to do the right thing. Provided the “others” stop playing the game that people don’t want to talk about. Like having huge cargos landing with whatever in it or not in it, not seeing anything and losing track of kidnappers when there is no kidnappee. Sometimes people wonder whether this WOT is a serious business or a joke. Leaving AQIM roam in a cup of tea and pretending not knowing where they are is bad business …

    Thanks Alex for the document that I will read. Looks like the AQIM people came into Mauritania from the South and not direct from Mali/Nema. I think they got accomplices inside Mauritania who prepared part of their gear. They could not have come in with 1.5 tons of explosives on their back. Like the guy who blew himself in front of the French Embassy: he could not have slept with his father and mother with the explosives ! Peo0ple have to think a little bit.

  4. The resolve of Aziz could be part of the explanation, I guess.
    Tidinit, are you in Mauritania? I’ll be there in three weeks time. (sorry OT)

  5. Will do. From experience, there may be very interesting things happening next door and I won’t know about it until I leave the desert and turn on the computer…
    But the feeling of being on the ground is essential and often I miss it in the virtual-ness of the (washington-based?) blogs.
    C U

  6. Please Priffe, let us know: read the local press and they don’t get it. They just cut and past whatever is thrown to them. Unfortunate that I am not in Mauritania, but in Australia! You are making me envious: drinking atay (tea with mint) and zrig (sour milk with water and little sugar). Lucky you! Come back in one piece, please.

  7. This piece from Tahalil – Mauritania. An Abu Jendel, a companion of El Para, freed and now in service to prove that AQIM is lead by Mauritanians and not anymore algerians alone? For an idiot like me, this is the tend I see fabricated by those behind this AQIM business. The kidnapping of the Italian woman by a group speaking Mauritanian Arabic (hassanya) in a secure southern Algeria looks like a fabricated one to make us believe that the emirs are first Tuareg and then now Mauritanians. This is not flying.

    Anyway, you need idiots like me to make the debate alive. Otherwise it becomes boring. Linking FARC to AQIM, cargos full of cocaine landing in Northern Mali on several occasions and that no one is finding, the secret behind it, the kidnappers never found after payment of ransoms, etc, etc… Does not make sense for lots of people.


  8. Well, the article contained snippets (that’s all we always get – snippets) of interesting information. Presumably obtained by interrogation of the surviving aqim guys. Cars came from Tighargar in Kidal region, Mali. A long and risky drive if they then came in from the south – I would rather think they came in from the east (Nema). How was the Mauri army able to spot the three vehicles? Either they have informants or the surveillance of the vast Mali border is surprisingly good. Or they got lucky?
    Behind the expedition is said to be the emir of katiba “El Vourghane”, MBM, aka Blaouar, the one-eyed. He is said to have lead most attacks on Mauritania.
    Did he and Abou Zeid split the territory? The raids against east Mali – Niger and the latest one in Algeria has AZ’s signature. So MBM to the west, AZ to the east?
    They have been successful in recruiting in Mauretania, esp. in the Trarza region (using wahhabist money? could be one or a few imams who are good at it), thus the prevalence of mauris in the ranks of aqim. But no Mauri leaders yet, afaik. Still the old algies (Droukdal-MBM-AZ) behind.
    This is all conjecture, of course, based on what little info we get. Like laying a jigsaw puzzle where you only have 5% of the pieces.

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