For countries bordering the Sahara Desert, terrorist attacks continue to pose “real threats,” says Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci. The menace, he adds, is compounded by the fact that terrorist groups often have ties with organized crime, including drug and arms traffickers who operate across the region’s remote and poorly controlled frontiers. To face the challenge, Mr. Medelci says, African countries must not only better coordinate their actions against terrorism and crime, but also improve the living conditions of the poorest people.
One sign of growing cooperation
against terrorism among governments in the region was a 16 March meeting in
Algiers between Mr. Medelci and the foreign ministers of a half dozen other
countries — Burkina Faso, Chad, Libya, Mali, Mauritania and Niger — all of
which border the Sahara and the semi-desert region to its south known as the
Sahel. The following month, the military chiefs of the seven countries also met
in Algiers, specifically to coordinate their security actions.
The ministers and generals were spurred on by fresh reminders in recent months of the seriousness of the problem: the seizure of several European and African hostages in Mauritania and Mali, an attack on a military post in Niger that cost the lives of five Nigerien soldiers and an ambush in the Kabylie region of Algeria that killed seven security guards. By addressing the region’s security challenges, General Salah said, it would make it easier for our respective political authorities to devote themselves to the task of economic and social development for the benefit of our peoples.