News / Africa

US Wary of Africa 'Terrorist' Threat, Senegal Detains Suspects

French soldiers search people at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Gao, Mali, February 14, 2013.
French soldiers search people at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Gao, Mali, February 14, 2013.
Reuters
Senegal has detained a Mauritanian and a Malian for suspected terrorist links, its government said on Friday, and a top U.S. defense official called for international teamwork to counter a growing presence of al Qaeda and its allies in Africa.

The United States and African governments are backing a five-week-old French military campaign against Islamist rebels in Senegal's neighbor Mali, calling it a blow against jihadists who threaten attacks in Africa and elsewhere.

After driving the bulk of the rebels from north Mali towns such as Gao and Timbuktu, French, Malian and African troops are pursuing the insurgents in the remote mountainous northeast where they are thought to be holding French hostages.

But the French are struggling to secure the liberated areas from the threat of jihadist suicide bombers and guerrillas who have struck at Gao, raising fears al-Qaida and its allies could attempt reprisal attacks in the wider region.

A Senegalese Justice Ministry official said the Mauritanian and Malian suspects were arrested this week by local police at Velingara, more than 600 km southeast of the Senegalese capital Dakar.

"They are in custody for criminal conspiracy in collusion with terrorist organisations, aimed at undermining the country's military situation and its economic interests,'' Macoumba Mbodj, an adviser at the ministry, told Reuters.

Mbodj said an investigation was continuing and withheld further details. He would not comment on Senegalese media reports saying the detained Mauritanian was a member of al-Qaida who was trying to recruit young men to fight in Mali.

US concerns

In testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee in Washington on Thursday, senior U.S. officials said the threat posed by al-Qaida's North African wing AQIM and allied groups extended well beyond Mali and would require long-term international efforts to "neutralize.''

"This is part of a growing terrorist presence in the region that threatens U.S. citizens, interests and partners,'' said Amanda Dory, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for african affairs.

Senegal, which has sent several hundred troops to join a U.N.-backed African military force for Mali that is still being deployed behind the French advance, has tightened security on its southeast border with its West African neighbor.

France has said it wants to begin withdrawing its 4,000 troops from Mali in March, but risks getting sucked into a tough counter-insurgency war in its ex-Sahel colony.

French warplanes this week hit Islamist rebel bases and supply lines in Mali's desert northeast, especially in the Aguelhok region, the French Defense Ministry in Paris said. It said six buildings and a storage zone, as well as a training camp of "terrorist groups,'' had been destroyed.

Extremist "network" in Africa

In her Washington testimony, Dory pointed to an attack last year in Benghazi, Libya that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans, and to a deadly January raid by jihadists on the In Amenas natural gas plant in Algeria.

She said AQIM had the ability to attack Western interests, and target or kidnap Westerners for ransom.
    
Dory cited danger from what she called "a network of violent extremist organizations in Africa, from Egypt to Libya to Somalia to Nigeria,'' describing a risk of "cross-fertilization and cross-pollination between affiliated groups.''
    
"The threat is dynamic and evolving and our efforts to counter it must be as well.''

Military operations not enough

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson said the Mali intervention should be accompanied by reforms to foster good governance and economic development.

"Terrorists prey upon fragile states,'' Carson said, and the success of the French-led mission would be "fleeting without a democratic and credible government that is responsive to the needs of Malians.''
    
Mali's interim government, formed after a March 22 coup that mired the nation in chaos and led to the north's occupation by rebels, said on Thursday it would hold a presidential election on July 7, and legislative elections two weeks later.

Coup leaders have continued to meddle in state affairs, increasing foreign calls for a legitimate civilian government.

In Mali's recaptured north, pro-autonomy Tuaregs - whose revolt last year was hijacked by the radical Islamists - are demanding direct talks with the central government in Bamako.

Carson said that while there could be no dialogue with groups supporting "terrorism,'' the legitimate political, social and economic grievances of indigenous communities in northern Mali should be addressed.

You May Like

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

The studies point to the possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More