Mali kidnap: Region needs to fight Aqim

2011-11-28 12:15
Dakar - After the kidnapping of five Europeans and the murder of one other in just 48 hours in Mali, military co-operation in the vast Sahel strip south of the Sahara desert shows it is in need of strengthening.

Incidents involving armed gangs are on the rise in the region, which is home to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim).

On Thursday two Frenchmen were snatched from their hotel in the northern Malian town of Hombori, followed by the abduction of four Europeans - one of whom was killed as he tried to resist - the next day from the ancient city of Timbuktu, a popular tourist haunt.

Aqim has bases in the northern Mali desert from which it organises raids and kidnappings and traffics weapons and drugs.

It also operates in Niger, Mauritania and Algeria.

In April 2010, the four countries where the highest number of Aqim-related incidents have occurred - Algeria, Mali, Niger and Mauritania - formed a Committee of Joint Chiefs (CEMOC), based in the Algerian town of Tamanrasset, to try and combat extremism in the region by coordinating their military operations.

But nearly 18 months later, kidnappings, trafficking and attacks by Aqim are becoming commonplace in the Sahel as CEMOC struggles to create a united force.

The recent arrival of thousands of Muammar Gaddafi loyalists who have fled Libya for Mali and Niger has only added to CEMOC's problems.

Internal disagreements


In this wild desert region which stretches for thousands of kilometres right across Africa from west to east, it is not hard for gangs and their hostages to remain elusive.

The kidnappers of the two Frenchmen abducted on Thursday are thought to have split into two groups, one heading in the direction of the Burkina Faso border to the south and the other moving north towards Mali's border with Algeria.

But the whereabouts of the Dutchman and Swede abducted on Friday along with a man of British-South African nationality remain unknown.

A total of nine hostages are now being held in the Sahel region and the pressure is on from European governments for local authorities to play their part in securing their release.

CEMOC army chiefs meet every six months but have never yet organised joint patrols.

Internal disagreements within the committee have also impacted on its effectiveness, according to a delegate from Niger at CEMOC's last meeting in the Malian capital of Bamako on November 21 who accused Algeria of not helping its neighbours enough.

"Algeria's army, by itself, has greater means that the armies of Niger, Mauritania and Mali" put together, he said.

"I can't understand why its army isn't deployed to help us fight Aqim."

But Algeria is rattled by any suggestion of including Morocco in the committee's fight against terrorism, a diplomatic source told AFP, and is also annoyed at intervention from its former colonial power France, with whom it maintains a touchy relationship.

Multiple kidnappings

"In not fighting together against Aqim, the Sahel countries are giving free reign to terrorists," said a Mauritanian official speaking in Bamako.

But the events of last week could bring about change, said Gilles Yabi, International Crisis Group director in Dakar.

"Everyone realises that this co-operation is needed to tackle these groups", he said.

Mali, now the scene of multiple kidnappings, at least will "act more clearly" henceforth, he added.

Last week Mali's government denounced the spate of abductions as "an attack on the country's security and stability", which "reaffirms [our] determination and unfailing commitment to any action needed to guarantee peace, security and stability".

On Saturday the government chartered a plane to evacuate around 20-odd tourists in Timbuktu and sent its soldiers to join French military in the hunt for the two Frenchmen as the country seeks to mitigate the damage to its tourism industry.

Foreign governments have already started warning their citizens not to travel to Timbuktu, an oasis known as "The Pearl of the Desert" and a World Heritage site renowned for its ancient Islamic architecture.

Read more on:    aqim  |  al-qaeda  |  niger  |  mali  |  mauritania  |  algeria  |  security  |  west africa  |  abductions
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
3 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

Africa: Land of Billionaires!

Find out who are the richest of the richest in Africa!

 
 

Men24.com

Best bro movies 2014
Every man should be able to do these three things
Goalkeeper saves five penalties with his FACE!
Hottie of the day: Jesselyn

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Hot festive offers at kalahari.com!

Hurry! Stocks are limited. Don’t miss out. Shop Now!

Save up to 60% on toys!

Don’t miss out on this hot offer, save up to 60% on toys. While stocks last. Shop now!

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may feel divided. Conflict between mind and emotions can create tension or indecision. This could lead to stressful feelings...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.