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 Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
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 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 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.

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