** Dozens from Polisario-run camps in Algeria reported to join al-Qaeda-linked, northern Mali-based MUJAO in recent weeks **
AllAfrica.com, Moroccan American Center for Policy (Washington, DC , Aug. 27, 2012) — Following a meeting with Moroccan Foreign Minister Saad Dine El Otmani in Rabat last week, Senator Joe Lieberman (CT) praised Morocco’s peaceful model of political reform and urged speedy implementation of its autonomy initiative for Western Sahara, which he said was a “serious, credible, good, and realistic” proposal that would contribute to improving stability in the region.
Lieberman’s remarks — which reflect the views of bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate and the policy of the past three US Administrations — come as international alarm grows about the danger of advances by al-Qaeda-linked forces in northern Mali and its reach into neighboring countries in Africa’s Sahara/Sahel.
Jeune Afrique reports that in recent weeks “dozens of young people” from the Polisario-run refugee camps near Tindouf in southern Algeria have joined the al-Qaeda-linked Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), based in northern Mali and whose spokesman, Abu Walid Sahraoui, “is himself a former member of the Polisario.”
On July 28, Spain ordered the UN-assisted evacuation of all of its aid workers from the Polisario-run camps because of the “serious risk of further hostage-taking” by al-Qaeda-linked forces, which include al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), its offshoot, MUJAO, and Islamist extremist Ansar Dine, that seized control of northern Mali after a March 22 Mali coup. Aid workers from France and Italy joined the Spaniards in the sudden airlift to Madrid.
Reliable news reports after the evacuation cite “real concern” about links between members of the Polisario-run camps and MUJAO, evident in last October’s kidnapping of three Western aid workers from the Polisario Rabuni headquarters camp, reportedly with inside help. MUJAO released the three July 19 in exchange for $18.4 million and prisoners that included one from the Polisario-run camps held in Mauritania for his role in the kidnapping.
While Western aid workers have been evacuated, forced to stay are tens of thousands of Sahrawi refugees, who have been confined to the camps for more than three decades by the Algerian-backed Polisario Front and denied the most basic rights. Multiple reports have warned the dismal conditions are fertile ground for recruiting by terrorists and traffickers in the region.