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

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid