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Military Leaders from West, North Africa Meet US Commanders on Terrorism Fight - 2004-03-22


Senior North and West African military leaders are gathering in Germany for unprecedented talks with top U.S. commanders on cooperation in the global war on terrorism and other issues.

The first-ever North Africa, Pan-Sahel Chiefs of Defense meeting is taking place in Stuttgart, Germany, headquarters of the U.S. military's European Command, which oversees American military activities in most of Africa.

According to a spokesperson for the European Command, the participants include senior military officials from Algeria, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Senegal and Tunisia. The U.S. side is led by General Charles Wald, deputy commander of the European Command and a frequent visitor to Africa.

The talks, scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, are to focus on military cooperation in the global war on terrorism.

Speaking to journalists earlier this month, General Wald said specific topics would include intelligence-sharing and the ability of forces to operate together effectively.

Some covert operations have already taken place. These have been centered on efforts to eliminate a group of terrorists active in the Algeria-Mali border area. The alleged terrorists, affiliated with the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, have been led by Saifi Ammari, a former Algerian soldier nicknamed "the Para."

The group suffered what U.S. military officials have described as a serious blow after it was effectively driven out of the Algeria-Mali border area, across Niger and into Chad. There, government troops, aided by U.S. aerial surveillance and other intelligence information, killed about 40 of the suspected terrorist fighters.

Troops in Mali and Mauritania, meanwhile, have just undergone special U.S. sponsored and organized counter-terrorist training with forces in Chad and Niger scheduled to receive similar training later this year. A similar training program is being considered for North African countries.

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