Sahel : Young people in Tindouf are massively joining terrorist groups

In 2012, the Polisario’s former «Minister of Defense», Lamine Ould El Bouhali had declared to a Spanish daily newspaper that a huge number of young Sahrawis had joined terrorist groups in the Sahel. Five years later, the phenomenon has escalated in a worrying way that was displayed through the Front’s media platform. Details.

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Terrorist groups in the Sahel, the ecoclimatic zone of transition in Africa between the Sahara to the Sudanese Savanna, have been recruiting young people residing in the Tindouf camps. A truth that has just been recognized in a long article published by a Polisario media outlet. Moroccan intelligence services have previously warned against the fact that young Sahrawis settled in the Algerian desert could join terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS.

The former Un Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, also referred to the problem through a report issued in 2014. Nevertheless, nothing has been done to determine the extent of the phenomenon. Consequently, terrorist groups in the Sahel have jihadists who are trained to use weapons, manufacture explosives, and perfectly adapted to the lifestyle in the Sahara.

Escaping poverty

Although the source dared openly to discuss the issue, it did not give concrete numbers of Sahrawis who had joined jihadist groups in the Sahel. «Everyone is aware of these youths’ departure, joining terrorist groups. Members of the Polisario are heading a number of jihadist entities, such as Abu El Oualid Essahraoui, who operates in northern Mali», says a source from the Sahara.

After taking part of the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, he succeeded in creating his own terrorist cell after he swore allegiance to ISIS in October 2016. Abou El Oualid even threatened in a video to attack the MINURSO and the Kingdom.

Joining terrorist groups is a way of escaping poverty for young Sahrawis who belong to poor families. Others chose drug trafficking while the lucky ones work in the Front’s administrative departments.  

Even Sahrawi doctors who studied in Cuban universities refuse to return to the camps. A situation that pushed the Polisario’s «ambassador» in Havana to ask the Cuban authorities not to hand the graduates their diplomas.

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