Overview: Mauritania remained a strong security and regional CT partner for the United States in 2019. Despite continued terrorist violence in neighboring Mali and regional threats that included those against Mauritania, the country has not suffered a terrorist attack on its soil since 2011. The government has continued its CT cooperation with the United States and welcomed opportunities to participate in U.S.-sponsored CT-focused trainings. Countering terrorist activity remains a top priority for the Mauritanian government and armed forces, and this message is vigorously underscored by Mauritanian military leadership when appealing to donor nations for equipment and training assistance. Restrictions on U.S. assistance to Mauritania under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act have limited U.S. foreign assistance for Mauritanian CT efforts. On November 14, Iyad Ag Ghali, the leader of JNIM, made new threats against the Sahel countries, including Mauritania, that collaborate with France in the fight against terrorism. In a seven-minute audio recording, the JNIM leader explained that the group was targeting the Sahel countries because of their alliance with France and asserted that the group’s latest attacks reflect the “failure” of the G5 Sahel Joint Force.
2019 Terrorist Incidents: There were no terrorist incidents in Mauritania in 2019.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: There were no new terrorism cases pending before the courts. The Ministry of Justice’s counterterrorism division is still working on two case files from last year in which six individuals arrested on drug trafficking charges are being investigated for possible links to terrorist groups.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Mauritania is a member of MENAFATF. Throughout 2019, the government took steps to combat the financing of terrorism and money laundering. In April, the Central Bank ordered 691 money transfer offices closed for failure to comply with the 2005 Law Against Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism. In October, the government formally created the National Committee to Combat Money Laundering and the National Committee to Combat Terrorist Financing. Chaired by the prime minister’s senior security advisor, the committees include the participation of the Central Bank governor as well as the ministers of economy, justice, interior, and other agencies with a view to improving internal government coordination on these issues. The October decrees creating the committees also replaced the Central Bank’s FIU (known as CANIF) with a new Financial Investigations Unit.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Traditional Education (MIATE) partnered with the U.S. Embassy to implement CVE activities under the Sadaqa project. Through this partnership, the MIATE facilitated the implementation of at least 85 CVE activities that reached more than 2,500 individuals in Nouakchott and the eastern regions of the country. These activities included trainings on radicalization risk factors, conflict mediation, youth engagement, and effective media and communications, and they also leveraged the ministry’s adult literacy programs across these regions to conduct CVE events. The U.S. Embassy also partnered with the Ministries of Interior, Youth, and MIATE to design and implement a Youth Mediator for Peace Network consisting of 13 core leaders who implemented relevant CVE activities in their respective regions. On October 7, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs launched a CVE center located within the University of Islamic Sciences in Aioun, Hodh el Gharbi region to study various manifestations of terrorism and the best methods to address it.
International and Regional Cooperation: Mauritania hosts the headquarters of the G5 Sahel regional organization, which comprises Niger, Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso, and Mauritania. The G5 combats regional terrorism and promotes development and governance within and across Sahel member countries. Mauritania assumes the rotating presidency of the G5 Sahel in 2020. In June, the Nouakchott-based G5 Sahel Defense College graduated its first class of 36 mid-career officers, which included 16 Mauritanian officers in addition to 20 officers evenly distributed from Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Chad. In September, the G5 Sahel Defense College provided the first session of instruction specifically for officers from the five countries on secondment to the G5 Sahel Joint Force.
On July 29, Mauritania announced that it was sending a representative to the headquarters of the International Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition led by Saudi Arabia.