Nigeria’s Boko Haram, al-Qaeda in Maghreb (AQIM) and Somalia’s al Shabaab, have struck terror in their various countries, and recently analysts and security experts have confirmed an increasing cooperation between these radical sects.
Now government from these terrorised regions are joining forces to secure their nations. The Algerian government, in press conference on Sunday, confirmed that foreign ministers of Sahel countries Algeria, Mali, Mauritania and Niger are set to meet Nouakchott, Mauritania next month to discuss regional security with their peers from Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Chad, the Maghrebia reported.
“Our goal is to assess the degree of the terrorist threat and act accordingly by collective and concrete action,” Algerian Minister for Maghreb and African Affairs Abdelkader Messahel said last Sunday at a joint press conference with visiting Mauritanian Foreign Minister Hamadi Ould Baba Ould Hamadi.
According to the report, the ministers will be discussing, among other topics, the ties between Nigeria’s Boko Haram and al-Qaeda in Maghreb (AQIM).
The Nigerian radical religious sect has claimed responsibility for several attacks, including the bombing of the UN headquarters in Abuja on 26 August which claimed 24 lives, their first attack on an international institution. More recently, the group went on a bombing spree, setting off explosions and gun battles in Damaturu and Maiduguri, the Yobe and Borno State capitals.
Those attacks, which occurred on 4 November, the Sallah weekend, claimed over 100 lives (according to the Nigerian Red Cross) and spread fear across the country, especially the northern regions and many residents are said to have fled the area. One thing came through, the group is growing in sophistication and technique.
“We are convinced that there has been some co-ordination between Boko Haram and al-Qaeda,” the Algerian minister told the press. “The way in which the two organisations operate and reports from intelligence services clearly show that there is co-ordination.”
The Maghrebia reported that Mauritanian foreign minister refuted any link or contact between his country and AQIM. “I’m not aware of those contacts; we are not familiar with al-Qaeda, but we are familiar with terrorist gangs who attack our country from time to time. Our response is to step up security. We have no intention of negotiating with terrorists,” he said.
It is unclear to what extent the countries will work together in fighting terrorism. Despite assurances from the government and security agents, Nigerians are doubtful of their abilities to keep the country safe, and some analysts have called for more international input. Perhaps the December meeting in Nouakchott will provide that.