China Releases List of Olympic Terrorism Suspects

Andrew McGregor

October 30, 2008

China’s Ministry of Public Security announced the names of eight Uyghur militants charged with Olympic games-related terrorist activities on October 21. While no actual terrorist incidents were reported during the August games, a Ministry spokesman claimed all the various Uyghur plots were foiled by Chinese security forces (Xinhua, October 21).

xinjiang olympic 1Chinese Security Forces Clamp Down in Xinjiang

The suspects are alleged to be members of the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM -East Turkistan is the Uyghur term for the western Chinese province of Xinjiang). In the weeks prior to the Olympics, there were video threats from a previously unknown Uyghur Muslim group called the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), which claimed responsibility for a number of older incidents they were clearly not involved in before making outlandish threats of massive attacks on Olympic facilities using conventional and chemical weapons. The TIP has not been heard from since. Though a series of bombings and attacks occurred in Xinjiang in August, none were related to the Olympics (except through timing) and no claim of responsibility was issued by the TIP or ETIM.

There has been little ETIM activity since the death of its leader Hasan Mahsum at the hands of Pakistani troops in October 2003. According to a 2002 Chinese government report that gave exaggerated figures for the size of the movement, the ETIM received training in camps run by al-Qaeda or the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) in Afghanistan prior to 9/11. Chinese security forces claimed Hasan Mahsum received funding from Osama bin Laden, though the late ETIM leader denied any connection to al-Qaeda. The movement received a U.S. designation as a terrorist organization after intense diplomatic pressure from China in 2002.

The new report charges Memtimin Memet (“Memetiming Memeti” in the Xinhua transliteration) with being the successor of Hasan Mahsum as leader of the ETIM. Memet is charged with organizing fundraising and military training before issuing orders in January for terrorist attacks on the Beijing Olympics.

Xinjiang Olympic 2Another alleged militant, Emet Yaqub (“Emeti Yaquf”), seems to be identified as the “Commander Seyfullah” who issued the TIP video threat that was dated July 23 and appeared on the U.S. IntelCenter website on July 25. The Ministry document makes no mention of TIP and cites only a “June 2008” video that threatened the Olympic games with chemical and biological weapons. Most of the suspects are reported to have trained with explosives and poisons, though no actual attacks are claimed.

The Ministry document is extremely vague on locations, dates and other details of the terrorist plots, but attempts to compensate for this with less relevant details, such as aliases, birthdays, education levels and official identification numbers. The report avoids identifying locations for the ETIM’s external activities, referring only to “a South Asian country” and “a certain Middle East country.” The “South Asian country” is most likely Pakistan, which is currently seeking financial and nuclear aid from Beijing.

China is seeking international support in apprehending and extraditing the ETIM suspects, who are believed to be out of the country. The release of the statement comes as China is lobbying the U.S. to “avoid double standards” and extradite 17 Uyghurs currently held in the Guantanamo Bay prison (Xinhua, October 21; Hsin Pao [Hong Kong], October 23). The men have been found innocent of terrorist activities and were recently ordered released by a court order, though the U.S. administration is appealing the ruling (AP, October 9; LA Times, October 8). Uyghur expatriates claim China is mounting a new campaign of repression against Xinjiang’s Uyghurs now that the Olympic games are over (Sherqiy Turkistan Axbarat Merkizi [East Turkistan Information Center, Munich], October 15).

 This article first appeared in the October 30, 2008 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Focus

Mystery of Arms Ship Seized by Somali Pirates Grows Deeper

Andrew McGregor

October 30, 2008

In the holds of the Ukrainian cargo-ship MV (Motor Vessel) Faina, seized by Somali pirates in September, are 33 Russian-designed T-72 battle tanks and a substantial cargo of grenade launchers, anti-aircraft guns, small arms and ammunition. Kenya and Ukraine both insist the arms and armor are destined for the Kenyan Department of Defense to replace Kenya’s 1970s vintage Vickers MK 3 tanks (Daily Nation, September 29; AFP, September 28). At the moment, Kenya’s armed forces do not use any Russian-designed equipment and Kenyan military sources have been reported as saying no training on the Ukrainian/Russian-built equipment has taken place, normal purchasing procedures were not followed and the Department of Defense was only informed of the shipment after it had been seized by the Somali pirates (Daily Nation, September 29).

 MV Faina 1Somali Pirates on the MV Faina (Aftonbladet)

A shipping document found on the vessel by Somali pirates indicates the arms are headed for “GOSS,” the usual acronym for the Government of South Sudan. Ukrainian and Kenyan officials insist the acronym stands for “General Ordinance Supplies and Security,” an apparently meaningless phrase that some Kenyan military officials say they have never seen before (Sudan Tribune, October 8). Kenyan government spokesman Dr. Alfred Mutua says Nairobi is still hopeful the MV Faina will be released “and we will get our cargo” (Daily Nation, October 23).

There are claims from maritime shipping observers that the MV Faina is actually the fifth ship in the last year involved in shipping arms and tanks through the Kenyan port of Mombasa to South Sudan (The National [UAE], September 29, BBC, October 7). 50 tanks destined for the SPLA were seized in Mombasa in February, though the fate of this shipment is uncertain (Sudan Tribune, February 15; Al-Ray al-Aam [Khartoum], February 15, Juba Post, February 22). With the status of Sudan’s oil fields still in dispute, South Sudan appears to be arming in preparation for a resumption of Sudan’s Civil War following the 2011 South Sudan independence referendum. The T-72’s would be more than a match for Khartoum’s Chinese-designed Type 59 (al-Zubayr) tanks, a copy of the Russian-designed T-54, though more modern Type 96 (al-Bashir) tanks were unveiled in a military parade last December. Nevertheless, an SPLA spokesman denied the weapons were destined for South Sudan, saying the SPLA was not yet “advanced enough” to receive shipments of modern weapons (Reuters, September 29). There are no indications that SPLA personnel are receiving the extensive training needed before they could make use of the MV Faina’s cargo.

Khartoum announced last week that senior Sudanese officials will not be attending the October 26-28 Nairobi meeting of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD – an important regional organization that includes Kenya, Sudan, Somalia, Uganda, Ethiopia and Djibouti). The snub comes only days after Sudan cancelled a meeting intended to seal a deal providing Kenya with discounted Sudanese oil (Daily Nation [Nairobi], October 22).

Both moves are seen as expressions of Khartoum’s displeasure with the use of Mombasa as a port for unauthorized arms shipments to land-locked South Sudan. Under the terms of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between north and south Sudan, all arms purchases by the southern Sudanese People’s Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M) must be approved by the central government. Khartoum has also accused Ethiopia of supplying arms to the SPLA (Reuters, October 13). Shipments of arms to South Sudan do not violate the current UN arms embargo, as has been reported elsewhere.

On October 27, Russia announced that it had been given permission by Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to take military action against Somali pirates (ITAR-TASS, October 27). The Russian Baltic fleet guided-missile frigate Neustrashimy is now in Somali waters and is prepared to “take part in joint operations against pirates together with the vessels of foreign naval forces” (Kommersant, October 28). The MV Faina is currently surrounded by ships of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet determined to ensure the arms are not offloaded. Somalia’s Islamic Courts Union (ICU) resistance movement has denied any involvement in the hijacking, noting that the ICU had eliminated piracy in 2006 (Reuters, September 29).

Confusing the issue is a recent statement by anonymous Yemeni government sources that the tanks and other arms on the MV Faina were destined for Yemen, not South Sudan (Yemen Post, October 20).Yemen is currently the world’s fourth largest importer of Russian arms, many of which are resold to third parties, and has just concluded a deal with Moscow to allow Russian naval ships to “use its ports for reaching strategic objectives” (Yemen Times, October 18). The Neustrashimy docked in Aden before heading for Somali waters. Amidst the rising tensions, Yemen has announced the postponement of this week’s regional summit on piracy, scheduled to be held in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a (Yemen Post, October 20).

MV Faina 2T-72 Tanks being Offloaded from the MV Faina (Gideon Maunu)

(AIS Update: The MV Faina was released by its captors on February 5, 2009 after the payment of a $3.2 million ransom by the ship’s Ukrainian owners. The T-72 tanks were offloaded in Kenya, allegedly destined for a Kenyan military base according to the Nairobi government. U.S. satellite photos later revealed the armor was sent on to South Sudan in violation of the 2003 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), for which Kenya was a guarantor. See and  for relevant U.S. diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks.)


Identity of Kidnappers of Chinese Oil Workers in Sudan Still Unclear

Andrew McGregor

October 22, 2008

Nine Chinese oil workers were abducted on October 18 from a small oil field in the South Kordofan region of Sudan. It was another example of the insecurity that plagues oil operations in Sudan and is the third abduction of petroleum industry employees this year. The men are employees of Chinese oil giant China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and were doing contract work at the time for the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company (GNPOC), a consortium made up of Chinese, Malaysian, Indian and Sudanese elements (al-Jazeera, October 19; Reuters, October 19; Sudan Tribune, October 19). Security forces are reported to be scouring the area but have been hampered by rain and the thick bush and forest of the area.

China KordofanChinese Oil Workers in South Kordofan  (Radio Tamazuj)

Sudan and China have agreed to joint efforts to obtain the release of the kidnapped oil workers (SUNA, October 20). A crisis cell has been formed within the Chinese embassy to deal with the issue (Sudan Vision, October 20).

A spokesman for Sudan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), a Darfur rebel group with national ambitions, of carrying out the abductions (SUNA, October 20). The Chinese embassy has not yet had any contact with the kidnappers (AFP, October 20). Despite government claims of JEM involvement, there is a strong possibility the kidnappers are members of the local Arab Messiriya tribe. Part of the cattle-owning Baqqara Arab group of western Sudan, the Messiriya are angry over the inequitable distribution of jobs and oil wealth from industry facilities located on their traditional grazing lands. JEM claims the Messiriya have joined their operations against Kordofan oil facilities in the past in reaction to a government disarmament campaign (see Terrorism Monitor, August 11). Four Indian oil workers and their Sudanese driver were kidnapped by the Messiriya last May (Sudan Tribune, July 27). Though it has warned Chinese oil companies to leave the region in the past, JEM has neither confirmed nor denied participation in the current kidnapping – JEM units are often far-flung and operate with a great deal of autonomy.

BaqqaraChina’s efforts to fuel its rapid economic growth have led it into some high-risk areas where social and political instability have dissuaded others from working. Two Chinese engineers were kidnapped in Pakistan by the Taliban and have been held in the Swat valley since August 29. In a recent escape attempt one man reached a government checkpoint while the other fractured his leg and was recaptured by the Taliban (Geo TV, October 18).

The Kordofan abductions come at an embarrassing moment for the Khartoum government. Chinese special envoy to Africa Liu Guijin is scheduled to arrive on Friday to discuss the Darfur crisis. Chinese support for Khartoum is beginning to wear at its international credibility and there are reports that China has advised Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir to begin cooperating with the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has recently indicted him for war crimes in Darfur (Sudan Tribune, October 18). China has also recently opened a consulate in the southern capital of Juba in an effort to develop relations with the oil-rich Government of South Sudan (GoSS) as it prepares for an independence referendum in 2011.

This article first appeared in the October 22, 2008 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Focus

Pakistani Islamist Fatwa Refutes Taliban’s Jihad

Andrew McGregor

October 22, 2008

In a surprising move, a group of Pakistani clerics best known for their hardline views on Islam’s role in society have gathered to issue a fatwa condemning suicide-bombing and the current trend of individuals or organizations declaring jihad against the state at any moment they feel appropriate. Brought together under the umbrella of the Mutahidda Ulema Council (MUC), the conference agreed “only the state has the authority to call for jihad, and individuals or groups are not authorized to do that” (Daily Times [Lahore], October 16).

NaeemiConference Host Maulana Sarfaraz Naeemi

The meeting brought together an unlikely assemblage of Pakistani religious leaders. The council included representatives from the Jamaat Ahl-e-Sunnat (a Barelvi Sunni movement largely based on the non-Pashtun population of the Punjab) and their ideological opponents in the conservative Deobandi Jamaat Ulema-e Islam. The Shi’a Ahl-e Tashee was present, as was the Sipah-e Sahaba, a banned radical Sunni organization involved in terrorist violence against Shi’a. Representatives from minority Sunni groups like the Ahl-e Hadith and Jamaat-e Islami were also present. The conference was hosted in Lahore by the Jamia Naeemia (led by Maulana Sarfaraz Naeemi), a group known for its harsh criticism of perceived government failures to implement strict applications of Islam in the social and political spheres of Pakistan.

Conference delegates were unanimous in their rejection of suicide-bombing as haram (forbidden) and najaaiz (illegitimate), though the statement added: “It seems as if the government is covertly backing these attacks so that patriotic citizens may not assemble and launch a mass drive for the defense of the country” (The News [Islamabad], October 14). While moderate Islamic leaders like Mufti Munibur Rehman have issued fatwas against suicide-bombing in the past, few members of the MUC group of clerics have any affiliation to “moderate” trends of Islamic interpretation (Daily Times, October 16). Despite the criticism of the government, the clerics’ condemnation of suicide bombing was welcomed by Pakistan’s Interior advisor, Rehman Malik.

The conference also issued a number of demands on the Islamabad government, including an immediate stop to military operations in the Bajaur and Swat frontier districts, an alliance between Pakistan and Iran, and the public revelation of any secret deals made between ex-President Pervez Musharraf and the United States. The clerics condemned the recent U.S. nuclear trade deal with India as dangerous to Pakistan, which has just completed its own deal for Chinese nuclear assistance (Press Trust of India, October 2; Daily Times, October 16; October 19).

Tribal lashkar-s (ad-hoc military formations) have been formed in the frontier region in recent weeks to combat Taliban militants, but since the MUC meeting the Taliban have struck back with deadly suicide attacks against tribal jirga-s (assemblies) convened to discuss eliminating the militants (Geo TV, October 18; KUNA, October 19). The attacks suggest that even a fatwa issued by hardline Islamists is now insufficient to slow the rapid escalation of violence in the tribal regions.

 This article first appeared in the October 22, 2008 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Focus

Shaykh Qaradawi Alarms Egypt with Warning of Shiite Imperialism

Andrew McGregor

October 1, 2008

In remarks very similar to recent statements from Egyptian al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, a popular Doha-based Egyptian Islamic scholar and spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood has accused Iran of being behind a new wave of Shi’a “imperialism” that threatens the existence of Sunni Islam in Egypt and other Muslim countries. 82-year-old Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi is a media-savvy religious scholar based in Qatar. Al-Qaradwi is the president of The International Union for Muslim Scholars (IUMS) and the head of the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR). He hosts a religious program entitled “Shari’a and Life” on Qatar-based al-Jazeera TV.

Qaradawi 2Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi

In a September 9 interview, al-Qaradawi attacked what he perceived as an Iranian-backed attempt to displace Sunni Islam with Shi’ism: “I don’t accept that any Arab or foreign country should attack Iran, but I don’t accept that Iran should attack any Arab country, especially seeing as some Iranians have imperial dreams, which is wrong and dangerous… What is happening is organized, an invasion… It is not a religious invasion but a political one. Iran is trying to impose itself on those around it and we refuse to follow a new form of neo-colonialism, be it Iranian or any other” (al-Masry al-Youm, September 9). Describing the Shia as “heretics” (mubtadioun), the shaykh alleged that well-funded missionary cadres are “invading Egypt,” as well as Sudan, Algeria, Morocco, Nigeria, Malaysia and Indonesia (Al-Ahram Weekly, September 25 – October 5). Iran responded by suggesting the cleric had come under “pressure from extremists” (Gulf Times [Doha], September 17). The remarks came at a time when tensions between Sunnis and Shias have grown due to the civil conflict in Iraq, Iran’s continuing nuclear program and the suggestion by some Western analysts that Iran is promoting the creation of a “Shiite Crescent” across the Arab Middle East.

The shaykh’s views on Shi’a “imperialism” have encountered widespread opposition in the Arab and Islamic world. A Kuwaiti commentator suggested al-Qaradawi was trying to mobilize the Sunnis in a war against the Shia and asked, “Would anything happen to Egypt if 100,000 Egyptians became Shi’is? And vice versa, would anything happen to Iran if the same number of Iranians became Sunni? Nothing would happen as long as brotherly relations prevail among different sects” (al-Watan [Kuwait], September 24). Shi’a Muslims form a majority in Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan and Bahrain. They form sizable minorities in Saudi Arabi, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

Reaction was particularly negative in Lebanon, where al-Qaradawi claimed Hezbollah was trying to leverage popularity won in its 2006 victory over Israel to convert Sunnis to Shi’ism. Shaykh Fathi Yakan, head of the Islamic Action Front (Jabhat al-Amal al-Islami – an umbrella group of Lebanese Sunni Islamists allied with the Shiite Hezbollah), condemned the remarks of the “dear cleric”: “The most serious blow we received this week was a sectarian one dealt to us by a dear cleric, a blow which could have been deadly. We hoped that he would not have raised this issue. We hoped that the revered cleric would have referred in his talk to the increasing number of Jews coming to the Land of Al-Kinanah [Egypt]” (al-Manar TV, September 24). Though not referring to al-Qaradawi specifically, Shaykh Na’im Qasim, deputy secretary general of the Lebanese Hezbollah, saw an American hand behind efforts to create a sectarian divide in Islam: “This sedition has recently been bearing the U.S. signature because America wants to ignite the area under the slogan of the Sunni-Shi’i sedition with the aim of infiltrating it, especially since it found that the strength of the unity between Sunnis and Shi’is cannot be confronted” (al-Manar TV, September 24). Hezbollah chief Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah suggested the Egyptian shaykh should speak out against Christian missionary activity in the Islamic world instead of identifying Shiites as the problem. Fadlallah also accused al-Qaradawi of the committing the sin of fitna (creating discord between Muslims) in an interview with Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Rai Al-Amm (AP, September 24).

Leading members of the influential International Union of Muslim Scholars, headed by al-Qaradawi, have been highly critical of the shaykh’s allegations, describing them as divisive and embarrassing. With Shia members of the group threatening mass resignation, a meeting has been set for November to discuss the problem (Al-Ahram Weekly, September 25 – October 5).

Many of al-Qaradawi’s remarks were directed at Egypt, which has a negligible Shiite population, placed at less than one per cent: “When I left Egypt 47 years ago, it had not a single Shiite and now there are many… who took them to Shiism? Egypt is the cradle of Sunnism and the country of Al-Azhar.” Cairo’s al-Azhar University, the Islamic world’s leading school of Islamic studies, recognizes Shi’ism as a legitimate form of Islam and carries courses in Shiite studies. Al-Qaradawi has often found himself at odds with the institution and its leader, Muhammad Sayyid al-Tantawi. Ironically, al-Azhar mosque (which later grew into the university) was founded as a Shiite institution during the period of Shiite Fatimid rule in Egypt (969-1171 A.D.).

Al-Qaradawi’s remarks reinforce an apparent fear amongst Egypt’s leadership that they are subject to a Shiite infiltration designed to depose the regime. Islamic scholars have been asked to educate security forces in Shi’a ideology and strategy, while the Minister of Religious Endowments recently warned, “We won’t allow the existence of a Shiite tide in Egyptian mosques” (AFP, September 23). In a controversial interview in 2006, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak attacked Shiites as disloyal; “Most of the Shi’a are loyal to Iran and not to the countries they are living in” (al-Arabiya TV, April 8, 2006).

A leading Egyptian jurist and Islamic scholar, Tariq al-Bishri, proclaimed “This fascism in the name of the Sunni majority against Shiites is the most dangerous thing for the Islamic nation because it pits Muslims against each other instead of against the invaders of their lands” (al-Dustur [Cairo], September 20). Prominent Saudi lawyer Amin Tahir Bediwi announced he will bring a lawsuit against al-Qaradawi in Qatar (The Peninsula [Qatar], September 29). A second lawsuit has been launched by Shi’a activists in Qatar, demanding al-Qaradawi be stripped of his Qatari citizenship and deported to Egypt (Al-Ahram Weekly, September 25 – October 5).

Al-Qaradawi has used his internet site this month to accuse Shiites of the forbidden practice of bid’a (innovation in religion): “They slap faces, strike chests until they bleed in commemoration of the death of Imam Al-Hussein (the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson)… They also do things when they visit the graves of the Prophet’s offspring like invoking their help instead of Allah’s” (Islam Online, September 25). The shaykh also used his website to line up a series of Shiite scholars who announced they were “satisfied” with the shaykh’s “clarification” that Shiites are indeed Muslims (Islam Online, September 20). Nevertheless, al-Qaradawi has continued his attacks on Iran and Shi’ism, telling an Arab daily that Iranian money is behind the spread of Shi’ism; “Money definitely plays a role but I cannot say that every person who backs Iran has been paid by them and I cannot accuse everyone of this. There are people who were paid and continue to be paid and there is shuttling between them and Iran. This is known.” (Al-Sharq al-Awsat, September 25). In a second interview with al-Masry al-Youm, al-Qaradawi declared, “I do not care and I am not shaken by this stir. I made this statement to answer to the dictates of my conscience and religion and responsibility… I am trying to pre-empt the threat before it gets worse. If we let Shiites penetrate Sunni societies, the outcome won’t be praiseworthy. The presence of Shiites in Iraq and Lebanon is the best evidence of instability” (al-Masry al-Youm, September 23).


This article first appeared in the October 1, 2008 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Focus

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb Calls for Jihad in Mauritania

Andrew McGregor

October 1, 2008

Eleven soldiers and one civilian were abducted by AQIM after a September 15 ambush in the Tourin area of Mauritania’s Tiris Zemmour province, near the iron-ore mining town of Zouerate. The missing men were found decapitated and mutilated in a desert area on September 20 (AFP, September 21).

Zouerate 1Tiris Zemmour Province, Mauritania

The 12 men are believed to have been killed by Algerian elements of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) (Al-Akhbar [Nouakchott], September 21). The militants seized two military vehicles, weapons and a large quantity of ammunition. Despite being over 500 miles from the closest border at the time of the attack, the militants managed to evade patrols and aerial surveillance in making their escape (AFP, September 17).

Mauritania’s president, Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdellahi, was deposed by a military coup on August 6. He and Prime Minister Yahya Ould Ahmad Waghf remain under house arrest. The coup leader was General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who claims Abdallahi was negotiating with Islamist militants, going so far as to offer them positions in the government in return for an end to political violence.

A Mauritanian newspaper said sources within the military reported that U.S. intelligence informed the Mauritanian command that vehicles carrying armed militants were in Tiris Zemmour province. To the displeasure of the Americans, the Mauritanian military failed to take the information seriously (Al-Akhbar, September 16).

AQIM claimed responsibility for the attack in a September 23 internet message (al-Fajr Media Center, September 23). The statement said the attackers were under the command of Shaykh Abd al-Hamid Abu Zaid. The operation was designed to “avenge the oppressed prisoners in the Mauritanian prisons” and urged members of the military to “repent” and abandon “this hireling army of the Jews and the Christians.” Mauritania is one of only three Arab nations to have diplomatic relations with the state of Israel.

Zouerate 2Carrying away the product of the open-pit mine at Zouerate

In a video entitled “A Message to our Ummah in the Islamic Maghreb,” AQIM leader Abu Musab Abdul Wadud (a.k.a. Abdelmalik Droukdel) called for jihad against Mauritania’s government, claiming that Mauritania “has become a nest of foreign intelligence, at its head the [Israeli] Mossad… Does [Mauritania] think that the Al-Qaeda Organization in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb will accept this situation and leave Israel in peace inside its embassy, throwing off its venom and plotting and fomenting coups and inciting the military against the sons of the nation, the best of its youths? ” (Al-Fajr Media Center, September 21).

The imprisoned leader of al-Qaeda in Mauritania, Khadim Ould Saman, issued a statement in August opposing the coup: “The coup that established the new regime is undoubtedly authored by the infidel West… It is then our duty to launch a holy war against it” (Taqadoumy [Nouakchott], August 30). The militant leader is facing charges in connection with the massacre of four French civilians last year.

Mauritania’s Communications Minister tried to downplay the threat while calling for international assistance: “What’s happening are pretty major incidents that are, however, taking place in the far north and as you know very well what happens in Siberia doesn’t necessary bother people in Moscow. That said, I would very much like the international community to assume its role of solidarity with us because this danger doesn’t only affect Mauritania. It’s a danger to the whole world” (Radio France Internationale, September 23). Morocco responded quickly by sending a team of military engineers and technical experts from the Gendarmerie to help identify weaknesses in Mauritania’s border security (Assabah [Casablanca], September 23).

The deteriorating security situation in Mauritania will inevitably have a negative effect on efforts to restore a civilian, elected government. The current military regime is expected to use the attack to seek the restoration of U.S. military aid, suspended after the August coup

This article first appeared in the October 1, 2008 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Focus