Al Qaeda has sleeper cells across West Africa: Experts

AQIM has roots in Algeria, with bases in Mali from where it launches attacks.

Updated: May 27, 2011, 12:47 PM IST

Banjul: Al Qaeda makes use of sleeper cells in several West African countries, security experts said on Thursday after a regional meeting on terrorism and trans-border crime in Gambia.

"In countries like Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, across the sub-region, we have al Qaeda sleeper cells," said a statement issued after the meeting organised by the African Centre of Terrorism Research, an African Union body, in collaboration with Spain.

"A sleeper cell is a cell that is on standby," explained a security official at the meeting, whose theme was "Connections between terrorism and organised transborder crime in West Africa."

Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said these representatives of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) worked "in silence, recruiting and doing field work”.

AQIM has its roots in Algeria, with bases in Mali from where it launches attacks, kidnapping of foreigners and trafficking operations in the desert region.

The meeting was attended by security officials and experts from Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Nigeria, Niger, Senegal and Togo.

The statement said there were very strong links between drug traffickers and AQIM.

"The relationship between terrorists and drug traffickers has gone from increased protection along transport routes for a fee, to a situation where terrorists are actively involved in trafficking drugs and other forms of contraband."

The African Centre of Terrorism Research evaluates terrorism risk in each country which is a member of the African Union.

Bureau Report