Source: Champion Newspapers Nigeria
West African security experts met in Nouakchott yesterday on the threat posed by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and its possible ties to Islamist sect Boko Haram in Nigeria, a security source said.
Nigeria and Burkina Faso have been invited to the two-day meeting between Sahel states Mali, Algeria, Mauritania and Mali which will end with talks between foreign ministers and intelligence chiefs on Tuesday, the Mauritanian security source said on condition of anonymity.
Algeria’s African Affairs Minister Abdelkader Messahel told his country’s news agency APS on Sunday that Nigeria had been included to « evaluate the links between AQIM and Boko Haram » with a view to future co-operation.
The Nouakchott meeting is the third in a series of bi-annual sessions between the Sahel nations’ security chiefs.
Intelligence chiefs will present a report on the « terrorist threat » in the region and the Committee of Joint Chiefs (CEMOC) set up in southern Algeria in 2010 will give an update on military co-operation, said Messahel.
Security has deteriorated across the Sahel desert strip in recent months.
This zone is difficult to patrol and monitor and AQIM has carried out many attacks on troops, kidnappings of Westerners and trafficking of various kinds, including drugs.
AQIM, which was started in the late 1990s by radical Algerian Islamists who sought the overthrow of the Algerian government to be replaced with Islamic rule was, was linked to Al-Qaeda in 2006.
The group is currently holding nine European hostages, while a new splinter group calling itself the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa claims to hold two Spaniards and an Italian kidnapped in Algeria in October.
Mali is also facing an offensive by Tuareg rebels who returned heavily armed from fighting for fallen Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi.
Boko Haram — believed to have a number of factions with differing aims, including some with political links and a hardcore Islamist cell — has carried out a wave of deadly attacks in Nigeria.