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January 19, 2011 |  8 comments |  Print  Your Opinion  

Antonin  Tisseron

Western Sahara's Polisario: Crime and Terrorism

Antonin Tisseron: The connection between crime and terrorism within the Polisario Front, Western Sahara’s rebel national liberation movement, is becoming increasingly clear. Moreover, there is also increasing evidence of Al-Qaeda involvement in the organization.

On the 9th of December 2010, an AFP communiqué quoting a source from the Malian security forces reported the arrest of six drug traffickers in the Sahara desert. The traffickers belonged to one of the three main drug smuggling networks in the region. This event is noteworthy but by no means exceptional. According to Interpol, around 50 tonnes of cocaine- to a total value of 1,8 billion dollars- circulates in West Africa each year.

More interestingly, a large majority of members of the network come from the Polisario camps and some are close to Polisario leaders. The members of the Sahrawi independence movement, which seeks independence for Western Sahara from Morocco, are not new to this. In February 2006, a Polisario member was arrested in Timbuktu for smuggling foodstuffs from international organizations and intended to supply the Tindouf camps. Likewise, a report drawn up by the Mauritanian National Security Department in 2008 estimated that 70 000 weapons were circulated within Mauritania in this year, a figure on the rise due to the proliferation of criminal activity on the part of Polisario Front members. According to the report’s authors, some of the organization's members who are very familiar with the region and practice gun-running here, benefit from the porosity of the contact zone between Western Sahara and Mauritania. The porous nature of this border also favors the passage of clandestine migrants towards the Atlantic coast and from there towards Morocco, as well as the smuggling of cigarettes.

While resorting to crime is nothing new and has its basis in the culture of predation and corruption endemic to the region, the breaking down of the Polisario Front can only encourage the Sahrawis’ descent into crime. On the one hand, while the recent Polisario Front congress does not appear to have achieved the anticipated results, the independence movement depends heavily on Algerian aid, which is subject to fluctuations in petrol prices. On the other hand, for Sahrawis who are faced with a lack of solutions to the conflict and the political stagnation of a movement that- for the time being- has not changed leadership since its creation, smuggling is a means to earn an income and to become proficient in new activities that are more in tune with the times. Guerillas without a cause and young Sahrawis who have grown up in the Tindouf camps with no prospects are potential recruits for Islamist terrorists.

The terrorist group Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb uses Sahrawis to carry out its criminal operations in the Sahel region, outsourcing a part of its activities and giving credence to the Moroccan theory of a connection between Al-Qaeda and Polisario members. One such smuggler, a prominent figure in the movement arrested by Malian authorities, confessed to providing Islamist terrorists in the region with logistical support, echoing the involvement of Omar, alias “the Sahrawi”’ in the kidnapping of Spanish hostages.

The links between crime and terrorism in the Sahel, however, are not limited to the type of sub-contracting typical of Western armies outsourcing recruitment. According to Mathieu Guidère, who specializes in the study of Islamism and terrorism, AQIM has lifted the right to passage on smuggled goods in exchange for safe-conduct. This allows AQIM to remunerate its intermediaries, mercenaries or informers of the “hybrid industry” of kidnapping, to equip itself with modern communication tools, to acquire arms and ammunition and various goods, indeed even to acquire political capital.

Henceforth, as the representative to General Wiliam E. Ward (head of the American military command for Africa- Africom) noted in January 2009, “in the Maghreb, a global approach to counter terrorism is indispensable”. More than this, we could extend this notion to include a global approach under the aegis of members of civil society. AQIM in the Sahel is certainly an indicator of the weakness of some states in the region, but it has also revealed human dramas and crisis situations that run deeper than terrorism.

Antonin Tisseron is a research fellow at the Thomas More Institute.

 

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Unregistered User

January 23, 2011

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Many thanks for exposing the dangers created by the Polisario separatist group south of Morocco. The world needs to know that an independent Western Sahara is not sustainable and will ultimately turn into an Al Qaeda playground. This is a risk that cannot be taken. On top of the fact that the Sahara is and was Moroccan, well before the Spanish occupation or their departure from there.
Tags: | Western Sahara | Morocco | al Qaeda | terrorism |
 
Unregistered User

January 23, 2011

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The Sahara conflict needs to be resolved quickly otherwise it will be a fertile ground for Al Qaeda to set foot in the region.The Tindouf camps set up by Algeria need to be dismantled and people get back to where they belong and from where they have been taken hostages for the last 30 years. It s a shame to see that they are used by Algeria and the Polisario front as a bargaining ship when dealing with Morocco.and the United Nations. Morocco is managing the Westren Sahara very well since the Spanish left and he has proven that Sahrawi people feel at home under Moroccan sovereignty to the Sahara.
 
Unregistered User

January 23, 2011

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Thank you for this piece of clarity and for reporting to the world the dangers of the Polisario Front in the region. The world needs to know that when believing these separatists mouvement and are supporting it, they are in fact providing for a terrorist group, contributing in its growth in the sub-saharan strategic region and helping spread the rate of crime mainly drugs and arms smuggling.
As the article states, the crime is not new to these separatists and the main concern now is that more and more Sahrawis detained in the Tindouf Camps become an easy recruit given the miserable conditions of poverty and oppression they live in. Resolving this pending issue is becoming urgent and the viable unique solution is for the sahrawis to joing their country fellowmen in Morocco and Polisario leaders be prosecuted.
 
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January 24, 2011

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Al Qaeda is becoming a serious threat in north Africa, and was able to infiltrate the polisario camps in south east Algeria. the United Nations have to put pressure on Algeria, Morocco and Mauritania to reolve this issue and to stop terrorism form getting spread in the region. The Tindouf Camps in Algeria are now a fertile land for the terrorist propaganda of Al Qaeda
Tags: | Westen Sahara | al Qaeda | Algeria |
 
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January 24, 2011

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hello! I don´t speak english so I will speak in Spanish.
Todo lo que aqui dicen es mentira, son mentiras del Gobierno de marruecos y EE.UU el Polisario no es un grupo terrorista:

A last question. if Polisario were a terrorist, Why Morroco and UN speak with him?
Thank.
FREE SAHARA!!! vive the Human Rights.
Tags: | Western Sahara |
 
Unregistered User

November 12, 2011

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Uf, so many lies in the article that I dont know where to start. Ok, first, it's funny see this suppossed "researcher" talking about links between AQMI and POLISARIO. How can he explain now the kidnapping by AQMI of European NGO workers who aid Sahrawi refugees and POLISARIO? First lie exposed. This people are the same that denied any relation between the "libyan" NTC and Al-Qaeda, although there are many proofs (Videos of Al-Qaeda masters supporting the so-called "rebels", Al-Qaeda flag waving in Benghazi's justice court -there are videos and photos of that-, presence of Al-Qaeda members on Afghanistan and Irak at the so-called "rebel" ranks, etc...). When they dont like the real history, they turn a blind eye on it or distort it.
Accussations of drug traficking are, apart from without any proof, funny, when anyone who deal with Maghreb issues knows that Morocco (well, better said, Mohamed VI, the Makhzen and the Moroccan army) is the biggest drug producer and exporter to Europe on the region. Second lie exposed.
Since AQMI first appearance, there had been Moroccan, Mauritanian, Algerian or Malian members detained or killed, but not a single Sahrawi case. Third lie exposed. And I dont want to talk about the suspicious Argana café attack blamed on AQMI by the Moroccan Makhzen, wich is very, very obscure...
So, exposing this bunch of lies, my only doubt is if the author is paid by the Moroccan government...
FREEDOM FOR WESTERN SAHARA. STOP MOROCCAN MILITARY OCCUPATION.
 
Unregistered User

July 10, 2012

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over three decades of a conflict in the western sahara region without any resolution , it seems to me that the deadline is a result of the Algerian position which is in contradiction with the UN security council resolutions that call for a political solution to this crisis
As to the Polisario front it seems equally that it has lost its independance in terms of taking its own strategic positions , in aditionto the fact that reports coming out of he four refugee camps based in Tindouf shows the extent of dissatifaction of the sahroui refugees , a numbr of at least 10 000 sahroui refugees have fled Tindouf and most of them opted to go back to their homeland in the Western sahara region
we read and hear plenty of analysis about th violation of human rights in the western sahara , but funny enough none of those wesrten wreiters and Human rights activists dare to tackle th human rights situation in the refugee camps . this double standerd is not only acceptable but it is indeed a mokery to the face of sahrouis
 
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July 10, 2012

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over three decades of a conflict in the western sahara region without any resolution , it seems to me that the deadline is a result of the Algerian position which is in contradiction with the UN security council resolutions that call for a political solution to this crisis
As to the Polisario front it seems equally that it has lost its independance in terms of taking its own strategic positions , in aditionto the fact that reports coming out of he four refugee camps based in Tindouf shows the extent of dissatifaction of the sahroui refugees , a numbr of at least 10 000 sahroui refugees have fled Tindouf and most of them opted to go back to their homeland in the Western sahara region
we read and hear plenty of analysis about th violation of human rights in the western sahara , but funny enough none of those wesrten wreiters and Human rights activists dare to tackle th human rights situation in the refugee camps . this double standerd is not only acceptable but it is indeed a mokery to the face of sahrouis
 

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