Publication: Terrorism Focus Volume: 5 Issue: 1


Only three weeks ago, the impoverished North African nation of Mauritania was looking forward to the economic benefits of a growing tourist industry and the thirtieth running of the famous Dakar Rally, set to start in Lisbon on January 5. These hopes came crashing down with the brutal murder of four French tourists on December 24 and the killing of three Mauritanian soldiers two days later by gunmen suspected to belong to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Rally organizers Amaury Sports Organization cancelled the often-controversial rally at the last moment, citing specific terrorist threats. The Nouakchott government was ready to deploy 4,000 security personnel along the route of the rally while a government statement insisted the nation was “safe and stable” (Afrique en Ligne, January 7).

A December 29 statement from AQIM took credit for the slaying of the Mauritanian soldiers, at the same time denouncing the rally and describing the murders as a blow against the newly democratic U.S. ally, which also maintains diplomatic relations with Israel: “This operation came at a time when the sky of beloved Nouakchott [the Mauritanian capital] is sullied by the Israeli flag fluttering over it, at a time when the Mauritanian regime remains (an agent) of the crusaders, detaining Muslim youth and starving the Mauritanian people while guarding its masters, securing for the infidels a suitable climate for the ‘Rally’ and… fighting the mujahideen under the banner of the cross” (AFP, January 4).

Cancellation of the event will strike a serious economic blow to Mauritania as well as the other participating countries of Portugal, Morocco and Senegal. One Senegalese newspaper described the economic impact of the cancellation as “a mini-tsunami” (Le Matin, January 7). Despite travel warnings from the French government, major French tour operators have decided not to cancel tours to Mauritania (Afrique en Ligne, January 7). Nine individuals alleged to be members of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb were arrested on January 8 in connection with the murders of the French tourists (Agence Nouakchott d’Information, January 8).


Imprisoned Egyptian jihadis have rejected the re-evaluation of Salafi-Jihadi ideology issued late last year by a former founder of Egypt’s Islamic Jihad organization, Sayed Imam Abdulaziz al-Sharif, better known as Dr. Fadl (see Terrorism Monitor, December 6, 2007). The statement was released by Ayman al-Zawahiri’s former right-hand man in the Egyptian jihad group, Ahmad Salamah Mabruk (alias Faraj Abu al-Masri), who was deported from Albania and is now serving a life-sentence in an Egyptian prison.

Dr. Fadl’s treatise, entitled Tarshid al-amal al-jihadi fi misr wa al-alam (Rationalizing the jihadi action in Egypt and the world), denounced al-Qaeda’s interpretation of jihad, particularly the wholesale use of indiscriminate violence and the use of takfiri ideology (the identification of other Muslims as infidels). Mabruk claims that imprisoned jihadis who refuse to endorse the work are denied visitors and states that Dr. Fadl was expelled from the organization in 1993 and thus has no right to speak in its name. Other prisoners, including Muhammad al-Zawahiri (Ayman’s brother) and Majdi Kamal, are also said to have rejected Dr. Fadl’s conclusions. According to Mabruk, “Anyone who agrees to the document of the revisions is considered expelled from the organization…” (Al-Hayat, December 30, 2007).