DAKAR, 25 February 2021 – Senegalese authorities and the United Nations say they have documented the infiltration of parts of Senegal by indivduals affiliated to al-Qaeda.

A United Nations Security Council report published last February 3 said elements of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM) umbrella group had encroached into several parts of northeastern, eastern and central Senegal.

Martin Roberts - Photo IHS Markit

Martin Roberts – Photo IHS Markit

Briefing the UN Security Council - Photo UN News

Briefing the Security Council – UN News

The report was cited Wednesday by Martin Roberts, a principal analyst in country risk at HIS Markit, who doubles as deputy head of desk for Sub-Saharan Africa.

JNIM elements have established themselves along the road between Kayes, Mali, and Kaffrine in central Senegal, as well as in Bakel, the Ferlo reserve, and the Saraya gold mining area, the Security Council report said in part.

Senegal - Source Senegal To Go

Source Senegal To Go

In December 2020, dozens of foreign nationals, mostly from Burkina Faso and Mali, were arrested for illegal mining activities in Saraya.

The Mali-based Katiba Macina group is affiliated to JNIM and it has been consolidating its presence in western Mali where JNIM has reportedly ramped up recruitment and training of fighters, and the preaching of jihad.

Back in November 2018, JNIM released a video in which Katiba Macina leader Amadou Koufa called on members of the Peul ethnic group in countries across West Africa, including Senegal, to join the jihadist cause.

Senegalese Soldiers - Photo Yemen Press Agency

Senegalese Soldiers – Photo Yemen Press Agency

Senegalese newspaper Liberation reported in early February 2021 that Senegal’s vulnerability has increased significantly.

Last February 1, the head of France’s external intelligence warned that JNIM is seeking to expand beyond its bases in Mali and Burkina Faso into coastal countries and describing Dakar as an aspirational target.

Senegal has responded to the increasing threat in the east of the country since mid-2020 by deploying additional troops to Ourossogui (Matam region) and Kedougou (Bassari).

A new military camp is also under construction at Goudiry (Tambacounda region), while joint training exercises have been conducted by the army, police, and the paramilitary water and forest authority in the eastern Military Zone 4.

Laguna Surf Camp in Kayes Senegal - Photo Normad Surfers

Laguna Surf Camp in Kayes, a Tourism Cash Cow Now in the “Red Zone” – Photo Nomad Surfers

The report said the group has adopted a more expansive operatonal outlook into coastal West Africa, alleging that JNIM aleady has a presence in Côte d’Ivoire and Benin.

Four suspected Islamist militants affiliated to the Mali-based Katiba Macina have been arrested in the Senegalese border town of Kidira, the paper said, citing security sources in the capital, Dakar.

Senegalese Military Recruit in Training - Photo The National Interest

Senegalese Military Recruit in Training – Photo The National Interest

The arrests were made over a three-day period (from  last January 20 thorugh January 23), according to the 8 Febrary 2021 edition of Liberation newspaper.

The four suspects, two of whom are reportedly traders based in the town, have been transferred to Dakar where a judicial investigation has been opened into their role in alleged acts of lending support to terrorism as well as criminal association.

Other news reports, citing security sources, say jihadist-led attacks have increased in the vicinity of the town of Kayes, the regional capital, situated less than 100 km from the Senegalese border with Mali.

Last August, France added Kayes to its “red zone”, advising French citizens to avoid travel to the town.

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