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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs