Mauritania Touts Anti-Terror Hotlines

State radio aired repeated appeals Tuesday for people to call new anti-terror hotlines with reports of suspicious behavior, the latest step in a crackdown on Islamic extremists in the Arab-dominated West African nation.

Over the past two weeks, police have arrested pro-Iraq Islamic leaders, members of Mauritania’s banned Vanguard Party who back Saddam Hussein, and those affiliated with several Islamic organizations suspected of funding extremist groups. State radio urged residents to call the hotlines “to save their lives and defend their country from terrorist threat.” “We are all concerned about our security and that of our country,” the broadcasts said. Driving home the message, Prime Minister Cheikh Al Afia Ould Mohamed Khouna said in a nationally televised speech Monday that Mauritania would not tolerate terror groups. Without naming al-Qaida, he cited the lessons of Afghanistan, saying Islamic militants ruined that country. Mauritania is a predominantly Muslim state that straddles black Africa and the Arab world on the edge of the Sahara desert. It was widely seen as supporting Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War, but has increasingly looked westward since. The government has appeared anxious not to risk Western isolation by showing support for Iraq or Islamic extremists, and has kept Islamic leaders under tight control since the new Iraq war began. Full Story

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