By Siham Ali
As the threat of smuggled Libyan arms spreading across the Maghreb grows, regional leaders are debating ways to address the issue. That was just one of the concerns addressed at a recent Interpol conference in Casablanca that brought together security chiefs from across the Middle East and North Africa.
The 4th Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Heads of National Central Bureaus conference wrapped up on September 28th, where participants discussed recent development in organised crime.
Former pro-Kadhafi fighters pose a real threat, especially in the Sahel, which is already affected by trafficking of all kinds, according to political analyst Ali Chennaoui. He warned that the widespread circulation of weapons in the region could benefit al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and argues that the unstable and fragile situation in the Sahel requires special attention.
In his view, security officials must step up their co-operation by sharing information and expertise in order to close the net on extremists and terrorists.
Controller-General and Deputy Chief of the Moroccan Judicial Police Brahim Bensami underlined the importance of finding the most effective tools and mechanisms to tackle organised crime and the recent terrorist threats in the region. The goal is to enable Arab member states of Interpol to make better use of databases in order to combat crime more effectively.
The discussions focused on the personality profile of terrorists, ways of identifying this profile and changes in the way terrorists think and recruit members for their organisations.
“These topics, which highlight the relentless efforts made to tackle international organised crime, can contribute to the development of a shared view of the threats and monitoring and surveillance tools,” Bensami said.
Fahem Al Mansouri, the head of Interpol’s Middle East and North Africa division, expressed a similar view. He said that the difficult situation in the MENA region makes it necessary to step up information-sharing between police forces in member states.
To achieve the desired outcomes and address the terrorist threat, which is being exacerbated by political instability, a number of measures will be stepped up. Particular emphasis will be laid on the creation of secure internet-based networks to facilitate the transmission of information.
Attendees argued that a regional strategy is needed to combat electronic crime and facilitate access to all new Interpol databases, expand them and update them regularly. Travel document databases also need to be updated by adding a column specifying the dates on which passports were issued in order to prevent confusion, as well as details of when search warrants expire or red notices are cancelled.
There was also a call for requests made by national police forces to be answered more quickly. The participants backed the idea of creating an electronic search engine to help national central bureaus with their investigations of criminal cases.
Another recommendation was that the countries in the region should run more training and awareness programmes with regard to nuclear, biological and chemical terrorism.