African coalition to fight Al-Qaeda in Sahel formed

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A meeting in Algeria on Sunday saw the Chiefs of Defence Staff from Algeria, Mali, Mauritania and Niger agreeing to join forces to fight against Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The coalition will benefit from Algerian military assistance and could also be open to other states that are exposed to threats from the extremist group within the Sahel region.

Four Sahelian countries have decided to join forces to fight against terrorism in the region. At a meeting on Sunday in Tamanrasset, Algeria, the Chiefs of Defence Staff from Algeria, Mali, Mauritania and Niger decided to adopt a common strategy to fight Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Reports indicate that troops from the four countries will be positioned at strategic locations in the Sahara desert, which has become the main base for terrorist activity.

The coalition group will be presided over by a rotating presidency. But in the meantime, the four countries will benefit from Algeria’s military strength as well as its know-how in counter terrorism and organized crime.

Algerian army chief, General Ahmed Corps Gai’d Salah has said his country was ready to release its combat aircraft to enhance the group’s counter terrorism operations.

Other countries like Chad and Nigeria are expected to join the four member coalition at a latter date.

This agreement comes at the heels of increased terrorist activities in the Sahel region.

Since swearing allegiance to the Al Qaeda terrorist network in January 2007 and changing its name from the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), AQIM has moved out of its North African base in Algeria, spreading its tentacles southwards towards West African countries in the Sahel region.

The great Sahara Desert, which runs through ten countries [[Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Chad, Niger, Mali, Mauritania]] , facilitates the mobility of the Islamist network. Particularly in cases of hostage taking.

It is believed that a group of hostages (five French, a Malagasy and a Togolese) abducted in Niger during the night of September 15 to 16 by AQIM, have been transferred to Timetrine, an area that lies in the north-eastern part of neighboring Mali.

No official date for the deployment of the coalition forces has been given. In the meantime, General Salah Ahmed Gai’d has called on the Sahel countries to “respect their commitments and take action as regards the fight against terrorism, organized crime and other related phenomena.”

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