Home | News    Saturday 16 October 2004

African Union agrees on tougher anti-terror action

By Paul de Bendern

ALGIERS, Oct 14 (Reuters) - African governments agreed on Thursday to push for tougher action to root out the terrorism that still threatens the continent despite the anti-terror campaign in force since September 11, 2001.

"Recent global terrorist attacks around the world, including in Africa, call for tougher measures and a more consolidated international cooperation," ministers of the 53 African Union nations said at the end of an anti-terrorism conference.

"We reiterate our deep concern over the fact that terrorism has not receded significantly in spite of the ongoing global counter-terrorism campaign," they said in a statement.

Their sombre view differed from that of the U.S. administration, which has repeatedly said the global war on terror is being won.

Africa is seen as a fertile recruiting and training ground for militant groups such as al Qaeda because of weak political institutions, poverty and poor policing of deserts and coasts.

Al Qaeda or linked groups have been blamed for deadly attacks in Kenya, Tanzania, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria. Washington helps many African countries with training and aid.

The delegates, who met in Algiers to mark the inauguration of an AU counter-terrorism centre based in the city, agreed to push for stronger border controls, extradition agreements, suppression of terror financing and intelligence exchanges.

They will also draw up a single African list of terrorist groups and individuals, to help coordinate action against them. Top U.S. and European Union counter-terrorism experts attended the meeting.

One Western observer, who declined to be named, said it was a good start for a continent often plagued by war, corruption and mistrust between neighbours.

"Africa needs to accept its responsibility in this war but we also realise we need to help them with training, military equipment and other expertise," the observer told Reuters.

The new AU centre will gather intelligence on the financing of terrorism, identify arms supply networks, exchange information on terrorist groups and work out ways of hitting them before they can attack.

Security is possibly the greatest obstacle to Africa’s development. Conflicts in Burundi, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo scare off much needed investment, make millions homeless and hurt the economies of entire regions.

(Editing by Tim Pearce, Algiers newsroom: tel +213 21 72 70 20)