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N. African states take down major narcoterror drug network

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CAIRO — North African states have stepped up security coordination.

Officials said Algeria has achieved results in efforts to increase
regional security coordination. They said Algiers was overseeing increased
cooperation with such neighboring countries as Mali and Mauritania.

“Our efforts over the past two years are beginning to pay off,” an
Algerian official said.

Algerian and Mauritanian security agencies recently broke up a major drug trafficking and money laundering ring.

On Dec. 15, Algeria and Mauritania were reported to have cooperated in the dismantling of a major drug trafficking network. Officials said the network also engaged in money-laundering in several states in North Africa.

So far, at least three people have been arrested and prosecuted on charges of laundering tens of millions of dollars in Western currency. Officials said the laundering involved companies in Mauritania and Morocco.

The Algerian daily El Khabar reported that the network laundered drug money through the sale and rental of sports utility vehicles in Algeria. One company was described as specializing in import-export and based in the Algerian city of Ghardaia.

Officials said the network was believed to have been linked with
insurgency groups in the region, particularly Al Qaida. They said Al Qaida
Organization in the Islamic Maghreb has been cooperating with the Polisario
movement in Western Sahara in arms and drug trafficking, particularly from
Mauritania to such neighbors as Algeria and Morocco.

Mali has also enhanced regional security cooperation efforts. Officials
said Mali has stepped up operations against AQIM and what was believed to be
its latest offshoot, “Al Qaida in Polisario Camps,” believed to have
abducted two French nationals in the northeast in November 2011. The
abductions were said to have been coordinated with Polisario.

“We will no longer accept the violation of its territorial integrity by
the Polisario Front,” a Malian official said.

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