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4 Saharan Nations Establish Joint Anti-Terror Command

Four Sahara desert nations are opening a joint military headquarters to coordinate their efforts against al-Qaida.

Algeria, Mali, Mauritania and Niger have all experienced trouble with the regional group al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.

The Algerian defense ministry said Wednesday that the new joint headquarters will be based in Tamanrasset, in southern Algeria.

No details of the new command were made public, but Reuters news agency quotes a senior military source in Niger as saying the countries will strengthen intelligence cooperation.

The source says the countries also plan to move toward joint military operations against terrorism, kidnappings, and the trafficking of drugs and weapons.

Western countries have warned that unless Saharan nations cooperate in fighting terrorism, the al-Qaida group could turn the desert into a safe haven and use it as a base for launching attacks.

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb fatally shot a U.S. aid worker in Mauritania last year and killed a British man they had kidnapped on the border between Niger and Mali.

The group is also believed to holding two Spaniards hostage, and kidnapped an Italian husband and wife who it later released.

Security experts say better regional coordination is key to stopping the group, whose members have avoided capture by crossing from one country to another.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.