Sahel, Maghreb Nations Mobilize Against Terrorism

By Mohammad Ben Ahmad from Al-Hayat, translated for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Libya Business News.

A few days ago, an undeclared security and military operation was launched against armed Salafist groups by four countries in the Sahel and Arab Maghreb regions. Although there has been no official announcement about the coordination between these four countries, the operation that started on Oct. 23 is the largest since the French invasion of northern Mali.

The number of soldiers and members of the security forces involved in the military operation from Tunisia, Algeria, northern Mali and northwestern Niger reached around 8,000. According to a well informed source, the operation started when the security forces in specific areas within these four states announced a state of high alert on Oct. 22, indicating the possibility of terrorist operations in the near future.

The implementation phase of this operation started on Oct. 23 in Tunisia and northern Mali, and on the same day, the People's National Army in Algeria began combing and surveilling several areas near the border with Tunisia and Libya.

This, remarkably, coincided with military and security operations against armed Salafist jihadist groups in southern Algeria and western regions in Niger and northeastern Mali and Tunisia. An informed source said that the military and security operations started in Tunisia and northern Mali and then spread rapidly to other areas in southeast Algeria and northwest Niger.

These operations aimed to minimize the chances of armed Salafist groups benefiting from the waning momentum of military operations in northern Mali, since combing and tracking operations conducted by French and African troops were halted in April 2013. This was coupled with security warnings a few weeks ago indicating the growing influence of armed Salafist groups in Libya and Tunisia and their support for al-Qaeda-linked terrorist factions in northern Mali and Morocco and militant groups in Tunisia.

As for Algeria, a security source said that the combing operations conducted in some areas in the desert and in specific locations near the border with Tunisia are routine for military and security forces in charge of combating terrorism and smuggling. Such operations led to the discovery of a quantity of arms near the Libyan border.

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