Algerian insurgents are becoming more active in Africa's remote, ungoverned deserts, and increased cooperation and intelligence-sharing among African nations will be key to averting future attacks by such groups, a top US general said Saturday.
US Major General Thomas Csrnko said the No. 1 threat to the region was Algeria's Salafist Group for Call and Combat, an al-Qaeda affiliated movement that loaded fighters onto a dozen trucks earlier this month and attacked an isolated Mauritanian army outpost near the Algerian and Mali borders.
The surprise assault left 15 Mauritanian soldiers and nine Salafists dead. Csrnko said insurgents from the group, which the US has designated a terrorist organization, fled with captured arms and ammunition.
The Salafists are accused of kidnapping 32 European tourists in the Sahara in 2003 and of carrying out numerous attacks in Algeria itself. Csrnko is the special forces commander for US European Command, or EUCOM, which oversees US military activities in Europe and all of Africa. During the Flintlock exercise, about 1,000 US special forces troops are training 3,000 African soldiers.
Csrnko and others are in West Africa for a two-week US-led joint counterterrorism exercise called Flintlock, taking place June 6-26. The exercises involve nine African nations -- Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal -- a vast area the US is pouring more money and equipment into in a bid to keep terrorists at bay. Africa's "ungoverned" spaces -- particularly deserts where security forces are hard to come by -- are the chief concern of American commanders fearful terrorists may seek refuge there.
Csrnko said Algerian Salafists were conducting supply and smuggling operations within the Sahara region, using well-established, centuries-old trade routes that forge paths through harsh deserts.
Al-Qaeda terror cells are still believed to be active in Afghanistan, launching attacks alongside Taliban rebels. Csrnko said as many as 25 percent of foreign fighters from North Africa were heading to Iraq to fight US forces and their allies. Iraq has become a terrorist magnet in the wake of the 2003 US-led invasion, with suicide car bomb attacks daily. US officials say a small number of fighters are returning to North Africa as well, trained in guerrilla tactics and bomb-making.
US forces began training armies in Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Chad in 2003. That effort has been expanded to Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Nigeria and Senegal, and its budget will be boosted from US$6 million to US$100 million for five years, starting in 2007.
Csrnko said US forces would aim to train with the same African units in the future with a view toward improving the capabilities of quick reaction forces, not regular armies.
14 GRIEVANCES: Australia’s values, democracy and sovereignty ‘are not up for trade,’ the prime minister said, after Beijing accused Canberra of poisoning bilateral relations Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he would not compromise national security and sovereignty, as Beijing ramped up its criticism of his government and warned it against making China an enemy. “Australia will always be ourselves,” Morrison said in a television interview yesterday with the Nine Network. “We will always set our own laws and our own rules according to our national interests — not at the behest of any other nation, whether that’s the US or China or anyone else.” A Chinese diplomat in Canberra gave a document to Australian media outlets outlining 14 grievances and accusing Canberra of “poisoning bilateral
For thousands of years, the dainty Fritillaria delavayi has grown slowly on the rocky slopes of the Hengduan mountains in China, producing a bright green flower after its fifth year. The conspicuous small plant has one deadly enemy: people, who harvest the flower for traditional Chinese medicine. As commercial harvesting has intensified, Fritillaria delavayi has vanished — by rapidly evolving to produce gray and brown leaves and flowers that cannot be so easily seen by pickers. Scientists have discovered that the color of the plant’s leaves has become more camouflaged — matching the background rocks on which they grow — in areas where
On the morning of Oct. 23, a 56-year-old employee at West Japan Railway was inspecting trains when he encountered an Asian black bear just outside Tsuruga Station in Japan’s northwestern Fukui Prefecture. He escaped with just a scratch, but about 10 minutes later, the same bear fractured the leg of a worker at a nearby construction site. Four days before the incident, a male bear entered a four-story shopping center in neighboring Ishikawa Prefecture. The 1.3m-tall bear holed up in a storage room for 13 hours, until it was shot by a local hunting group. Between April and September, wild bears were spotted 13,670
‘OCEAN OF STORMS’: The Chang’e 5 seeks to collect about 5kg of samples from a previously unvisited area in a massive lava plain, known as Oceanus Procellarum China plans to launch an uncrewed spacecraft to the moon this week to bring back lunar rocks in the first attempt by any nation to retrieve samples from Earth’s natural satellite since the 1970s. The Chang’e 5 probe, named after the ancient Chinese goddess of the moon, would seek to collect material that could help scientists understand the moon’s origins and formation. The mission would test China’s ability to remotely acquire samples from space, ahead of more complex missions. If successful, the mission will make China only the third country to have retrieved lunar samples, following the US and the Soviet Union decades