U.S. Department of State Country Reports on Terrorism 2005 - Mauritania

Mauritania was an active participant in the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Initiative (TSCTI), which builds upon the Pan-Sahel Initiative (PSI). Mauritania's ability to conduct effective counterterrorism activities is severely limited by a lack of resources and funding.

On June 4, the GSPC attacked a remote Mauritanian military outpost at el-Mreiti, killing at least 15 Mauritanian soldiers and wounding an equal number. This attack sparked a strong reaction by then-President Maaouiya Ould Taya that included unprecedented military cooperation with the neighboring countries of Mali and Algeria to pursue the GSPC elements across the Malian desert.

On August 3, while President Taya was out of the country, a small group of senior security and military officers led by Col. Ely Ould Mohamed Fal, the head of the national police, successfully carried out a coup d'etat. This group, known as the Military Council for Justice and Democracy (CMJD), cemented its authority after the coup. Nevertheless, it announced its intention to turn power over to a democratically elected government by May 2007. A presidential election is scheduled for March 2007. The coup and its aftermath had an impact on the government's counterterrorism efforts and the USG's ability to support those efforts.

Following the August coup, the transitional government took several positive steps towards creating an inclusive political environment where moderate Islamic groups can participate in the political process. In September, the transitional government announced a general amnesty that freed more than 100 political opposition figures, many of whom were in prison at the time. The transitional government also released, for lack of evidence, more than 40 Islamists arrested under the Taya regime. Nineteen other Mauritanian Islamists with reported links to terrorism remained behind bars pending trial.

Under President Taya, the government initiated an aggressive crackdown on Islamic groups that it deemed a threat to Mauritania's security and stability, and arrested numerous Islamists. It was not always the case, however, that the individuals arrested were promoting extremism and violence as much as that they represented opposition to, and competition with, the former government.

Both the transitional government and the former government placed a priority on protecting U.S. citizens and interests and routinely provided investigative assistance to resolve potential threats. Although no Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) existed between the United States and Mauritania, it is likely that the present transitional government would facilitate any U.S. requests for assistance.

Mauritania's transitional government faced terrorist threats from two groups: the GSPC and the Mauritanian Group for Preaching and Jihad (GMPJ). The GSPC presented a heightened threat to the Government of Mauritania and an emerging threat to the limited U.S. interests in the region because of its possible cooperation with al-Qaida through Zarqawi and other terrorist groups in the trans-Sahara region.

The GMPJ is a newer terrorist organization that was founded in 2000 by Ahmed Ould el-Khory. The exact size and areas of operation for the GMPJ are unknown, but its focus appears to be Mauritania. Several of the 19 Islamists currently in prison in Nouakchott are purportedly members of the GSPC or the GMPJ and are accused of direct or indirect association with terrorist activities.

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