ACCRA - West Africa has been on high alert following recent terror attacks on hotels in Mali, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast. And now in Ghana, a leaked security document says Ghana and Togo are the next targets of the al-Qaida affiliate that claimed responsibility for the previous attacks. Ghanaian President John Mahama has told the nation not to panic.
The leaked memo says the threat of a terror attack in Ghana is “real,” citing intelligence from the National Security Council Secretariat. It is addressed to Ghana’s immigration service.
The document calls for stronger border surveillance, including “thorough profiling” of people from Mali, Niger and Libya.
The memo was shared on social media and picked up by local press.
President Mahama sought to reassure the nation on state-run radio Thursday.
“We have trained our own special forces. Currently a significant number of them [are] on standby. We are preparing for any such eventually but we need the alertness of the public," said Mahama.
Ghana's government put the nation on high alert in March after al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) attacked a beach resort outside Abidjan, killing 19 people.
The leaked document says information from Ivory Coast, including confessions obtained from the mastermind of the attack there, indicates that the attackers entered that country in a 4x4 vehicle registered in Niger. The memo says the attackers concealed their explosives and weapons in the spare tire compartment.
Mahama said the leak was unfortunate.
"They didn’t need to put the intel in there. You just to send a directive asking for alertness and asking them to search more thoroughly vehicles and all that. Every country in West Africa is at risk and we are at risk not only from external forces but even from internal forces. We have evidence of radicalization of our own citizens who have gone out to join some of these terrorist groups," he said.
The head of the West African Center for Counter Terrorism in Accra, Mutharu Muqthar Mumuni, says panic must be avoided.
“We need to ensure vigilance and reporting of suspicious activities; however, we’ve got to be very careful in order not to condone acts that have the proclivity to lead to gross basic human rights violations relating to lynching of innocent people," said Mumuni.
The AQIM attacks in Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast marked an alarming expansion for the group whose operations until then had been confined to North Africa and parts of the Sahel region.