By Bakari Guèye
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s “Al Vourghan” brigade is believed responsible for kidnapping a Mauritanian gendarme earlier this week in Adel Bagrou, military sources told ANI on Thursday (December 22nd).
The katibat led by Algerian national Yahya Abou El Houmam reportedly mounted the attack after failing to execute another operation, the details of which were not disclosed.
On Tuesday afternoon, armed terrorists attacked the Mauritanian military police post near the Mali border. According to local sources, “weapons and ammunition were also taken by the five-man commando unit”, who set fire to the post before seizing gendarme Ely Ould Cheikh and making their escape in a 4×4 vehicle.
Mauritanian authorities did not report the attack. The next day, however, Malian media reported “violent clashes between a unit of the Mauritanian army and AQIM operatives, not far from the town of Nara”.
The kidnappers are expected to demand that Mauritania free jailed AQIM members in exchange for the police officer’s release.
This latest al-Qaeda attack has plunged local residents into fear.
“It’s unbearable,” exclaimed Mohamed Yahya, a key figure in the nearby town of Nema. “Since AQIM appeared on the scene, we’ve had no peace at home.”
Support for the theory of an AQIM kidnapping comes from eyewitness reports. The kidnappers were wearing Mauritanian military uniforms, Mohamed Mahmoud Aboulmaaly, an expert on Islamist movements, pointed out.
“Over recent years, AQIM has seized vehicles and clothing belonging to the Mauritanian army, most notably at Lemgheity, Tourine and Hassi Sidi,” he said.
Another thing corroborates the theory of an al-Qaeda operation, he said. “As they withdrew, the kidnappers shouted pro-jihadist slogans.”
“If you feel that AQIM is directly responsible for this kidnapping, then the next logical step is to blame the brigade run by Yahya Jwadi, also known as Abou El Houmam, and more particularly, the faction led by Khaled Abou Dhakir al-Chinghuitty.
Al-Chinghuitty (real name Almaimoun Ould Mennouh), “led the jihadists during the clashes with the Mauritanian army last June in Mali’s Wagadou Forest”, the analyst added.
The alternative theory is that the attack was led by al-Qaeda splinter group “Jamat Tawhid Wal Jihad Fi Garbi Afriqqiya” (Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa), which recently claimed responsibility for the Tindouf kidnappings. There are indicators to support the theory, particularly a declaration from the group about extending the geographic scope of its activities.
The Adel Bagrou attack may have been motivated by desperation, Mohamed Fall Ould Oumeir of La Tribune newspaper suggested.
“Mauritania has chosen to attack evil at its roots,” Ould Oumeir told Magharebia.
“We must therefore see the increase in AQIM activities, particularly kidnappings, not as a sign that they have recovered the initiative, but rather as an attempt to give the impression that they still exist and continue to be a threat,” he added.