By Jemal Oumar
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has not yet claimed responsibility for the Tindouf aid worker abductions, but available information indicates that it is likely responsible for the operation.
“The three European volunteers who were kidnapped on October 23rd from the Rabuni camp in the south of Algeria are currently held by Al-Qaeda and are still alive,” a mediator told AFP on the condition of anonymity.
Last week, a Malian security source told RFI that “the kidnapping was carried out by Saharan elements close to the group of Hakim Ould Mohamed M’barek, who is one of the activists and collaborators with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb”.
Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci on Tuesday (November 1st) announced the arrest of five suspects for the kidnapping of humanitarian aid workers Enric Gonyalons and Ainhoa Fernandez de Rincon of Spain and Rossella Urru of Sardinia.
According to El Khabar, the “Malian and Nigerian governments are carrying out patrols in mountainous routes that are likely to be infiltration points of terrorists”.
Rajel Ould Omar, a journalist in the city of Nama, told Magharebia, “In Mauritania, the military and security units in the eastern regions have been living in a state of alert for several days, in anticipation of a security threat.”
“As evidence of strengthening precautionary measures, the inspection security checkpoints are returning to the entrances of cities again,” he added.
He concluded by saying, “I think that the approach of Eid al-Adha, which requires large gatherings of the population, is one of the reasons why the local authorities decided to take more caution by fear of possible terrorist infiltration.”
Analysts agree that the kidnapping was carried out by AQIM and that they co-operated with operatives already in the area.
“All the evidence says that al-Qaeda carried out the kidnapping,” analyst Said Ould Habib told Magharebia. “Another indicator is the relationship of al-Qaeda with the drug trafficking networks that control that area, and therefore, there was co-ordination between al-Qaeda and those bands.”
“The hypothesis of co-operation between al-Qaeda and smugglers became certain following the discovery of SUV tracks after they had passed through the secret ‘Brouk’ road, which links the ‘Chkat’ region in northern Mauritania to the ‘Foum Zghid’ region in the south-west of Morocco or Western Sahara, down to the region of ‘Aricha’ in the north of Mali,” analyst Mohamed Naji Ould Ahmed explained.
Cheikh Ould Dah, an expert in security affairs, commented al-Qaeda’s delay “claiming responsibility for the kidnapping is a rather optimistic matter, because it means that the kidnappers have not yet reached the depth of their strongholds”.