African military commanders meet to discuss anti al-Qaeda strategy
Leading military and security chiefs from Algeria, Mali, Niger and Mauritania are due to hold a third round of meetings on Sunday in a bid to enhance counter-terrorism efforts against an increasingly active al-Qaeda affiliate, dpa reported.
This latest meeting is the second this month and the third since August by security chiefs from the four African nations to coordinate efforts to combat al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
AQIM has become increasingly active in the trans-Sahel region, taking refuge in the desert that connects Algeria's southern border with Mali, Mauritania and Niger.
As with the past two security meetings, this latest one is scheduled to take place in the southern Algerian city of Tamanrasset amid the backdrop of deadly battles against AQIM.
Security sources in Mauritania said the army there bombed suspected al-Qaeda sights in the north of Mali on Friday.
Also this month, the Mauritian Army and suspected AQIM militants battled in the vast desert region of northern Mali. That battle left at least five Mauritian soldiers and 12 militants dead.
Although France has denied that the raid in Mali was linked to the kidnapping of five French and two African nationals from northern Niger, it was reported that locals in Mali and Mauritania saw French aircraft in the attacks.
Among the abducted was an employee for the French nuclear group Areva and his wife. It was suspected that the gunmen had crossed with their hostages from Niger into the Malian desert. AQIM has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.