Since 9/11, a disturbing trend of security challenges with global reach is emerging in the Maghreb, Sahel, and other territories in Africa. It is brutally demonstrated by the escalation in violent attacks mounted by a broad range of lawless subnational groups from Mali to Somalia and beyond. These perpetrators, motivated by ethnic, racial, religious, tribal, and national ideologies, include an expanding array of Al-Qaida-affiliated and like-minded extremist groups and their associates, such as Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Boko Haram, Ansaru, Ansar Dine, Ansar Al-Sharia, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) Mourabitoun, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MLNA), Al-Shabaab, and militant recruits from the Polisario-run refugee camps and other displaced persons. It is of particular ominous concern to the region as well as to global interests that these political and social entities constitute formally or informally a “holy alliance” of “like-minded” movements as well as “strange bedfellows,” operating in an “arc of instability” from the Atlantic to the Red Sea and elsewhere. The strategic map of the “new terrorism hot spots” included in this study provides visual evidence of activities in North, Central, West, and East Africa as well as the spillover to and from other continents.
More specifically, the statistical record of 2013 indicates that terrorist attacks in the Maghreb and Sahel increased an alarming 60 percent from the previous year, totaling 230 incidents region wide, the highest annual total in the region over the past twelve years.
Algeria nevertheless faces ongoing challenges in guarding its borders, particularly in the southwest, where AQIM and other criminal groups engage in cross-border terrorism and trafficking. AQIM and others have similarly sought to exploit the situation in the refugee camps run by the Polisario Front near Tindouf by actively recruiting there. There is thus growing danger of radicalization in the refugee camps run by the Polisario Front near Tindouf, which a report from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in April warned were a “ticking time bomb.”
By summer 2012, northern Mali had fallen under the control of various Salafi jihadist organizations including AQIM, MUJAO, Ansar Dine, Al-Qaida’s El Moulethemine Brigade, and the Libyan extremists of Ansar Al-Sharia. It was reported that AQIM was provided training, financial assistance, and weapons to its affiliates and had attracted an influx of recruits from the region including militants from the Polisario camps in Algeria, displaced refugees, and radicals from Western countries.
We need cooperation with international monitors to conduct a census in the Polisario-controlled camps near Tindouf, Algeria, which pose a threat to regional security as a recruiting ground for terrorists and traffickers. The current Polisario military units should be disbanded and the refugees who have lived in those camps should be given an opportunity to migrate elsewhere in the region.