Ahead of a drill to teach West African police about forensics by blowing up a car filled with crash test dummies posing as suicide bombers, FBI agents met an unexpected question: why bother to investigate if the militants are already dead?
The query from a Senegalese officer demonstrates the steep learning curve for the region’s security forces if they are to keep pace with increasingly brazen and sophisticated jihadists moving in from the north-central Sahara and possibly Libya.
Since Islamic State’s entry into Libya last year, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has responded with a series of attacks to bolster its claim of primacy in the western Sahara.
Western governments worry the Islamic State presence in Africa may lead to ties with West Africa’s Boko Haram, which pledged allegiance to the group last year, and could herald a drive south. Some al Qaeda-linked brigades also appear to be merging.
Reflecting the changing threat and after major attacks in the last four months in Mali and Burkina Faso in which at least 50 people, including many Westerners, were killed, this year’s annual “Flintlock” counter-terrorism exercises have included police training for the first time. Read more