Sahel, Maghreb Nations Mobilize Against Terrorism

Article Summary
Algeria, Tunisia, Mali and Niger have amped up security operations along their volatile border regions.

A few days ago, an undeclared security and military operation was launched against armed Salafist groups by four countries in the Sahel and Arab Maghreb regions. Although there has been no official announcement about the coordination between these four countries, the operation that started on Oct. 23 is the largest since the French invasion of northern Mali.

The number of soldiers and members of the security forces involved in the military operation from Tunisia, Algeria, northern Mali and northwestern Niger reached around 8,000. According to a well informed source, the operation started when the security forces in specific areas within these four states announced a state of high alert on Oct. 22, indicating the possibility of terrorist operations in the near future. The implementation phase of this operation started on Oct. 23 in Tunisia and northern Mali, and on the same day, the People's National Army in Algeria began combing and surveilling several areas near the border with Tunisia and Libya.

This, remarkably, coincided with military and security operations against armed Salafist jihadist groups in southern Algeria and western regions in Niger and northeastern Mali and Tunisia. An informed source said that the military and security operations started in Tunisia and northern Mali and then spread rapidly to other areas in southeast Algeria and northwest Niger. These operations aimed to minimize the chances of armed Salafist groups benefiting from the waning momentum of military operations in northern Mali, since combing and tracking operations conducted by French and African troops were halted in April 2013. This was coupled with security warnings a few weeks ago indicating the growing influence of armed Salafist groups in Libya and Tunisia and their support for al-Qaeda-linked terrorist factions in northern Mali and Morocco and militant groups in Tunisia.

As for Algeria, a security source said that the combing operations conducted in some areas in the desert and in specific locations near the border with Tunisia are routine for military and security forces in charge of combating terrorism and smuggling. Such operations led to the discovery of a quantity of arms near the Libyan border. The combing operation conducted by military units near the Libyan border came at a time when the army command provided security and military reinforcement to areas near the border with Tunisia, Libya and Mali. It was also decided to raise the alert level for military units in these areas.

In Tunisia, the National Guard troops and security forces recently launched several operations in the center of the country. Several days before that, on the evening of Oct. 25, Interim President Moncef Marzouki announced the creation of a military operation zone in the same area. This emphasized the importance of the military operation conducted by the Tunisian army in several areas in the center of the country. In parallel, the most important military and security operation is being conducted in northern Mali, where UN, Malian and French troops have initiated a new large-scale operation against armed Salafist groups and factions in the northern and southern sides of the Niger bend. The spokesman stressed the importance of the operation and the number of the forces participating in it, saying that it aims to eradicate terrorist groups and prevent their return.

A well informed source said that units from the Nigerien army have been deployed since the end of last week in five regions in the northwest of the country near the border with Mali, Algeria and Libya. Within this scope, the Nigerien army command moved units to the Talak and Air regions, the Jadon heights, the Ténéré desert bordering Algeria and the Tekwiden region near the border with Mali.

The source asserted that the countries concerned with the recent security operations have coordinated in the fight against terrorism. This is no secret, since it is only natural to agree on the coordination of operations to combat terrorism. Military experts told El-Khabar that it is normal for these security and military operations be held simultaneously within the scope of the fight against terrorists in countries exposed to threats of terror in order to prevent these organizations from fleeing to stable areas in neighboring countries.

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Found in: war on terrorism, terrorist organizations, sahel region, marzouki, border security, arab maghreb, al-qaeda in the islamic maghreb (aqim), al-qaeda
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