The escape of four extremist prisoners from the central prison in Mauritania, after an exchange of fire and the killing of two National Guard forces, raised security fears of the possibility of a return to unrest and insecurity, especially in light of the increase in terrorist operations in neighboring countries and the activity of ISIS and al-Qaeda in the areas bordering Mauritania.
The Mauritanian National Guard had taken control of the prison and immediately began tracking down the escapees to arrest them as soon as possible, announcing that two of the prisoners were on death row, while the others were awaiting trial on charges of joining a terrorist group.
Africa is the new center of terrorist operations
According to the Global Terrorism Index for the year 2022, ISIS has shifted to the African Sahel and sub-Saharan regions after its defeat in the areas it controlled in Syria and Iraq, with Africa becoming the new center of terrorist operations. Therefore, Mauritania seeks to enhance its capabilities and secure its armament to confront the phenomenon, in coordination with vital countries in the region, and it has successful experiences in this file.
There are several reasons behind the growth of terrorism in Mauritania, including the ambitions of extremist organizations in its territory that embrace a major Islamic movement, as well as an extremist environment that encourages terrorism and jihad against foreign bases, whether they in Mauritania or neighboring countries. Among these groups is Jamaat al-Dawa wal-Tabligh, which was originally characterized with a Sufi character until it turned into a group loyal to al-Qaeda calling for jihad.
The religious discourse in Mauritania is characterized by extremism and is based on a group of members of the Salafist movement who control the mosques, where extremists call on the youth to violence towards foreign military bases.
Failure to monitor
Mauritanian political researcher Sultan Al-Ban said that the security dealings with the issue of prisoner escape and tracking them have not been completed in the best way, as the Ministry of Interior was unable to monitor video footage of the escape process despite the launch of a security and public monitoring system in the city of Nouakchott. He indicated that the absence of any video clips makes it difficult to track down the escaped prisoners, leading to the search being extended for a longer period, which represents an opportunity for terrorists to move away from the capital.
Ban added that the African Sahel region has witnessed a growth in terrorism rates in recent years; however, controlling the guarding of extremist prisoners can be effective, especially since the recent incident of the escape of 17 prisoners, including those considered the most dangerous in the region, falls within the circle of neglect, as it is easy to bring phones to prisoners, and a culture of bribery has spread among members of the guards, as well as the sale of drugs inside prisons.
Outside logistical support
Ban pointed out that the disappearance of prisoners at such a speed suggests that they received outside logistical support, and this of course increases the security risk in the country, both inside and outside Nouakchott. As a result, many embassies suspended their services in the capital, according to a statement by the British Foreign Office warning British nationals not to be in public areas, because the possibility of a security threat is very likely unless the fugitives are arrested.
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