North African intelligence chiefs to meet in Algeria

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The heads of the intelligence services of four north African countries are due to meet Wednesday in Algiers to plan joint work against terrorism and Al Qaeda, a diplomatic source in Bamako said Tuesday.

"Chiefs of the intelligence services of Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Algeria will meet Wednesday in Algiers to discuss setting up a combined intelligence centre to fight efficiently against terrorism in the Sahel," the source told AFP.

"But to be efficient, the anti-Al Qaeda coalition needs to open up to countries like Chad, Libya and Morocco, which have experience in combating Islamist extremism," the source added.

No official confirmation of the meeting could be obtained from Algiers.

The talks are scheduled to take place three days after Sunday's meeting of the chiefs of general staff of the four countries in Tamanrasset in the south of Algeria, where they made known their readiness to step up the struggle against Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

AQIM is active in all four countries and operates across their desert borders.

"At this meeting, there were differences and points in common. We're all agreed that it is necessary to fight terrorism. Now we need to agree on how, down to the finest detail," the source said.

In mid-September, AQIM claimed responsibility for taking seven hostages in northern Niger, who have since been transferred to northeastern Mali, close to the Algerian border.

The hostages were kidnapped by an armed gang in a September 16 raid on a uranium mining town.

© 2010 AFP

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