In partnership with the INTERPOL Regional Bureau for West Africa and the government of Mauritania, the ISS presented the second National Counter-Terrorism Training Course for law enforcement agencies in Mauritania. The course follows on from the first course held in February-March 2013 as part of the ISS West Africa/Sahel counter-terrorism capacity building programme.
Following the successful completion of the first course, Mauritania requested a series of other courses to strengthen the technical capabilities and expertise of its law enforcement agencies in the prevention and combating of terrorism.
Terrorism threat in Mauritania
Terrorism has been a recurrent problem in Mauritania, which has recently experienced some of the most deadly terrorist acts. This threat was considered to be high in the run-up to the one of the country’s most contested elections on 22 June 2014. Political conflict has been the main source of Mauritania’s insecurity since the country’s first coup d’etat that ousted president Moktar Daddah, Mauritania’s first post-independence president and set a dangerous precedent for political change.
Al Qaeda, particularly, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Ansar-Dine and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), which joined forces with Moktar Belmoktar to form the Mourabitoon brigade, have all sought to exploit Mauritania’s vulnerability. This vulnerability is aggravated by years of economic crisis, long periods of drought, vast inhabited and ungoverned lands, a hash desert climate, politicisation of identities and languages resulting deep ethnic divides. Despite the remarkable progress made in recent years to unite and stabilise the country, Mauritania continues to face daunting security challenges, particularly the terrorist threat from Islamists and a lack of capacity to deal with it in a robust and proactive manner.
Course objectives, content and outcomes
The aim of the two-week course was to increase awareness and knowledge on terrorism and counter-terrorism issues. In particular, the course sought to enhance the expertise and technical skills of law enforcement officials, with a view to enable course participants to strengthen their ability to identify, investigate and effectively prosecute terrorism cases. The course also intended to strengthen inter-agency cooperation, particularly coordination among police, gendarmerie, national guard, the army, customs and border authorities. The course was designed as an introduction to counter-terrorism. The contents and curriculum were based on the ECOWAS Counter-Terrorism Training Manual, which was developed in collaboration with the ISS.
27 law enforcement officials from the police, gendarmerie, border authorities, intelligence, military, and customs departments participated. Among these were senior police commissioners, commandants, inspectors, captains and heads of the units involved.
The course helped to strengthen networks and operational coordination among relevant agencies such as the police and gendarmerie, which have little history of working together and often compete in their criminal justice work.
Coordinator: Martin Ewi, Senior Researcher, Transnational Threats and International Crime Division, ISS Pretoria
- Willem Els, Senior Research and Training Coordinator, ISS Pretoria
- Chefou Abdou, Head of Investigation Unit, National Coordinating Agency for the Fight Against Terrorism, Niamey, Niger
- Yves Kouassi Abadinan, Expert on Counter-Terrorism, INTERPOL Regional Bureau for West Africa
- Konan Djaha, Expert on the investigation and repression of terrorist financing, GIABA