Overview: The Mauritanian government continued to oppose terrorism actively and effectively, building on an approach that hinges on improving the capacity of security forces and securing the country's borders. As in years past, the Mauritanian authorities cooperated with the United States on counterterrorism efforts and seized opportunities to participate in U.S.-sponsored training on counterterrorism tactics and techniques. Al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) remained the leading terrorist threat to Mauritania in 2014, although it has not conducted a successful attack in Mauritania in several years.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Mauritania's national counterterrorism laws define terrorism as a criminal act, describe court procedure in terrorism cases, and proscribe punishment for convicted terrorists. The Mauritanian government continued to send prosecutors and investigative magistrates to terrorism prosecution training organized by the United States and other international partners.

Mauritania's National Gendarmerie – a paramilitary police agency – and its National Security Directorate – which falls under the Ministry of Interior – are the primary law enforcement units performing counterterrorism functions. Cooperation and information sharing between the two organizations occurred sporadically.

Throughout the year, security forces personnel participated in eight courses funded by the Department of State's Antiterrorism Assistance program, which conferred expertise in relevant tactical and technical skills related to border security and investigative capacity building, with a particular emphasis on regional cooperation.

Border security remained a priority of the Mauritanian government, yet remained difficult due to a lack of capacity and different formations of security forces bearing responsibility for the various sections of the country's long land borders. Mauritania's border forces employed biometric screening capabilities at some, but not all, ports of entry. Information sharing efforts within the government and with other countries remained nascent.

Mauritanian authorities continued to arrest terrorist suspects during the reporting period. In contrast to years past, no terrorism prosecutions took place in 2014. Terrorism-related arrests in 2014 included:

  • On October 1, the Mauritanian authorities apprehended Haiba Ould Zouein, an alleged leader in AQIM, in Vassala, a village located along the border with Mali. At year's end, Ould Zouein remained in pre-trial confinement.

  • On October 12, Mauritanian security forces arrested four men in Zouérate – a city in the country's northwest – who had allegedly declared their allegiance to and sought to recruit fighters for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The authorities released one of the detainees after two days and charged the remaining three with attempting to provide material support to a terrorist group. At year's end, they remained in pre-trial confinement.

  • On November 5, Mauritanian security forces captured Ali Ould Soueilim in F'derik, a town in the country's far northwest. Suspected of collaboration with unspecified terrorist groups, Ould Soueilim was in custody and awaiting trial at year's end, after more than six years in hiding.

In addition, on November 17, the Supreme Court of Mauritania upheld the prison or death sentences of five appellants convicted of terrorism-related offenses. Among the petitioners was El Khadim Ould Semmane, who is reputed to be the former leader of the Mauritanian branch of AQIM.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Mauritania is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body, and maintains observer status within the Intergovernmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa. On February 10, Mauritanian officials from the Ministry of Justice and the Central Bank's financial intelligence unit met in Nouakchott with counterparts from the United States to outline the broad strokes of a legal framework to combat terrorist financing and money laundering.

Although legislation regulating alternative remittances exists, the Mauritanian government neither has the resources to monitor sizable flows of funds through the informal hawala money transfer system, nor considers doing so a priority.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.

Regional and International Cooperation: Mauritania was an active member of the UN, the AU, and the Sahel G-5 – a regional cooperation partnership organized in February. On December 19, Mauritania hosted the first meeting of the presidents of the five member states of the Sahel G-5: Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Chad. All signatories pledged to cooperate to combat urgent cross-border security threats – namely, terrorism and organized crime. Mauritania is also a member of the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership.

On March 26 and 27, Mauritanian officials participated in a two-day Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) workshop on border security, co-sponsored by the U.S. and Senegalese governments, in Dakar. On April 22 and August 4, Mauritania co-hosted meetings of the GCTF's capacity building coordination group in Nouakchott.

In early May, Mauritania's Ministry of Justice and the UN Development Program co-hosted a two-day capacity building workshop on investigation and prosecution of criminal organizations, including terrorist groups. Over 60 Mauritanian prosecutors, investigative magistrates, police investigators, and customs officials participated in the seminar, which featured presentations on investigative techniques and coordination practices outlined in the GCTF's Rabat Memorandum.

Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism: The Malian government continued to manage programs designed to counter violent extremism and to offer alternatives to "at-risk" individuals. For example, in 2014 the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Traditional Education trained over 300 former mahadra (Qur'anic school) students in vocational subjects at three education centers in Nouakchott, Atar, and Kaedi. Officials from Ministry of Interior and Decentralization introduced this program, and other aspects of the national strategy to combat terrorism and violent extremism, during public workshops that took place in regional capitals throughout the summer and fall. The government also continued to collaborate with independent Islamic religious organizations to promote non-violence, sponsoring radio and television programming on the themes of temperance in Islam, and paying monthly salaries of US $170 to 200 moderate imams who fulfilled stringent selection criteria.


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