Regular readers of Jihadica know of my long-running interest in Jihadism in Mauritania (go here for a great blog about the country). Recently, a German intel chief remarked that al-Qaeda has moved all of its training camps from Af-Pak to Mauritania and is planning to launch attacks on Europe from there.
The movement of all the camps to Mauritania can’t be true–AQ has a good thing going in Pakistan with the modular camps they set up, which, I’m told, are indistinguishable from the air from normal houses in enclosures. Nevertheless, it makes sense for AQIM to increase training in Mauritania now that Iraq is drying up. They’ll have more manpower, more money, etc. From there, operatives can move north to Europe via Morocco and to the east along the Sahel. That there are rebellious tribesmen (the Tuareg) and well-grooved smuggling networks is an added bonus. If there is to be a redoubt for a second front, Mauritania looks like a good spot.
The Moor next door has coverage as well – http://themoornextdoor.wordpress.com/2008/10/12/salafism-aqim-and-rural-mauritania/
MEMRI’s translation of the words of Germany’s foreign intelligence director appears to be inaccurate. He only said that militant Islamists would not only train in the AFG/PAK border area, but also in northern Mali and Mauretania, and that recruits from Algeria, Morocco, Nigeria and Somalia had traveled there.
Link to the original article: http://www.abendblatt.de/daten/2008/10/23/957522.html
That makes more sense. Thank you for tracking down the original.
Thanks for the plug. I’m very skeptical of this, though. I haven’t heard anything ever that would indicate that there exists actual training camps in Mauritania, and I assume what this refers to is AQIM camps in northern Mali. (And even those seem to be less “camps” than mid-desert get-togethers.) That’s also where you have the Touareg rebels, even if Mauritania has its fair share of unruly (Arab) tribals too.
All in all, the Mauritanian Jihadi movement seems very underdeveloped, and mostly a weak offshoot of the Algerian guerrilla, with little efficient leadership of its own, not to mention the kind of organization/infrastructure such as training camps would require. That said, I do think the country could potentially become very fertile ground for such movements in a longer-term perspective, especially if political and economic conditions deteriorate. But, if I allow myself to speculate a bit: for AQ/AQIM to try to exploit that, they would presumably want to first build up what resources they already have in the neighbourhood (the movement in Algeria and the Algeria/Mali border region), perhaps letting Mauritania serve as some sort of strategic depth for the time being while also cultivating groups there with an eye to the future.