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AQIM & Mauritania: Local paradoxes, regional dynamics and global challenges


Por Diego Guerrero Oris

The menace of Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb Islamique (AQIM) gained particular international attention as a result of the abduction of western foreigners. During the last years AQIM has not only perpetrated attacks in various countries of the region but also diversified its methods and tactics. Mauritania, in particular, has been victim of all types of AQIM attacks: kidnappings, suicide bombings, attacks to Embassies and military bases, and so forth. However, despite the efforts made by AQIM to secure a high profile and affiliation in Mauritania, the organization has not been able to establish permanent cells in the country nor has it been capable of building a strong foundation that would promote an increasing presence. This paper argues that the connection of AQIM and its messages with criminal networks and local tribes is structurally fragile. In fact, the political agenda pursued by AQIM in Mauritania does not match with that of its temporary allies. The actions perpetrated by AQIM on Mauritanian soil had an enormous negative impact on the economy and on the popular perceptions.

Not only radical Islam was thwarted to certain extent by the strong tribalism and the powerful brotherhoods that permeate social and religious structures, but also the links of the organization with trafficking and smuggling is a source of concern by many, who question the consistency of these illegal activities with Islam. Yet, the capacity of AQIM to make strategic regional alliances and benefit from scenarios like the conflict in Libya should not be underestimated.

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