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Mauritania, Algeria: Analyses of the Fallout from the Raid to Free Germaneau

On July 25, A French-Mauritanian raid on Al Qaeda Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) inside Malian territory failed to free French aid worker Michel Germaneau who was killed by his detainers.  The raid has raised diplomatic tensions as France reaffirmed their plan to reinforce their fight against terrorism and AQIM in particular. Bloggers from the Sahel region  are weary of the trends that the latest events have highlighted:  the rise of radicalization amongst the youth of the region and the complex diplomatic dynamics between the nations involved.

Azawagh Region via Wikimedia Commons-CC license under Public Domain

The radicalization of youth is symbolized  by the path of  Abdelkader Ould Ahmednah, Mauritanian AQIM fighter who was killed during the raid.  Mauritanian activist and blogger Nasser Weddady explains why one should play close attention as to how Abdelkader Ould Ahmednah came about getting involved with AQIM:

Ould Ahmednah had a guarenteed path to become, like many of his young tribesmen, a wealthy prosperous businessman. He chose otherwise. Ould Ahmednah and his siblings, are part of the country’s privileged elite. They were not driven into violent Jihadism by poverty. If anything, they were seduced by this ideology because Mauritania’s crumbling educational system fed them a belief that Islam is the core of their societies and that they are citizens of theIslamic Republic of Mauritania. Yet, they cannot reconcile that ideal with the realities of a society crumbling before their eyes. The next simplistic leap of faith for them is that if society is straying, then it must be that it needs to return to its core values

Weddady adds:

I feel that as long as Mauritania’s national narrative emphasizes Islam-a vague Islam at that- as the center of our national identity, we will be creating more Ould Ahmednahs. All it would take for someone (as the Muslim Brotherhood is doing right now) is to claim the mantle of Islam to disguise any ideological message to recruit a generation adrift and in search for bearings.

Blogger Kal at The Moor Next Door emphasizes the point that AQIM ideology resonates with affluent young Mauritanians and adds:

This is important in the context of de-tribalization (as the urban population expands, international Arabic newspapers and satellite media and internet access grows people replace more limited tribal or family loyalties with more abstract internationalized ones be they nationalist, Arabist, Islamist or whatever) which has been proceeding rapidly in Mauritania since the late 1970s. This does not mean that young, “modern” men disconnect from tribalism, it simply means that they enter a new level of political consciousness that connects them to broader grievances (i.e., AQIM is able to use family/tribal linkages in recruiting, as in this case, but only by penetrating the parochial boundaries that otherwise insulate tribal people from internationalism).

Kal also makes the point in the post that Algerian authorities felt that they could have been consulted for more information before undertaking the raid:

The raid went on without Algerian support, foreknowledge and went outside of the Tamanrasset command set up after the regional anti-terrorism conference earlier this year. As they see it, the raid ignored the regional security structures set up expressly to deal with AQIM. The French reportedly provided logistical and technical support while the Mauritanians did the heavy-lifting. An Algerian source told this blogger that France’s association with the raid will only create the perception that “France attacked an African camp and killed Muslims. They will make more enemies for themselves this way. They put African efforts in danger if they associate themselves too publicly with these kinds of things because it can make [us] look like stooges, like the French are really the ones fighting these terrorists when it is us.”[..] Other Algerian sources say Algerian involvement might discredit anti-AQIM activity as much as France’s (for reasons of doctrine/mentality and Malian attitudes towards the Algerians). Others believe that Algerian involvement may initiate needless blood feuds with the local population. Malian and Mauritanian sources report that in the last six months Malian Arab smugglers have taken fire from Algerian helicopters near the Algerian border.

On twitter, Kal posts that a second Algerian raid took place the same week as the Franco-Mauritanian one and that: ” Algerians denied participation bc they wanted to use the French raid as cover”.

AQIM Area via Orthuberra on Wikimedia – Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0

Jeune Afrique reports that contrary to AQIM's allegations,  French authorities deny having negotiated with AQIM before the raid [fr]:

L’Élysée le martèle depuis le début : les ravisseurs de Michel Germaneau, l’otage français dont l’exécution a été annoncée le 25 juillet dernier, ont toujours refusé de négocier. Lundi 2 août encore, Paris n’a pas dévié de cette version.

The Élysée (French President office) stated from the start: the people who took Michel Germaneau hostage, whose announced his execution on July 25th, always refused to negotiate. On Monday August 2nd, Paris still has not deviated from this version.

Jeune Afrique also indicates that Algerian authorities might have been informed of the raid to liberate Germeneau after all [fr]:

D’habitude prompt à dénoncer « ce type d’ingérence », Alger s’est cette fois abstenu. Il faut dire que le Quai d’Orsay lui a coupé l’herbe sous le pied en annonçant que les autorités algériennes avaient été informées au préalable.

Usually Algiers is quite quick to denounce this “type of interference” but this time, they decided to keep mum. The fact is, the Quai d'Orsay ( French Foreign Affairs Office ) preempted any statement by the Algerian authorities by announcing that they did inform them before taking action.

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