By Loubna Flah
By Loubna Flah
Casablanca – In an interview with the Moroccan news outlet Hespress, Mustapha Salma Ould Sidi Mouloud, a former police chief of the Polisario Front and a political dissident, revealed shocking facts about the connection between the Polisario youth and the terrorist organization Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI).
Mustapha Salma Ould Sidi Mouloud traced back the involvement of Sahrawi youth in terrorism to the rise of political Islam and Jihadist organizations in Algeria. He explained that since the formation of the Islamic salvation Front (ISF) in Algeria, an outlawed Islamist party in Algeria, the Sahrawi students who were attending Algerian universities were incrementally influenced by the Islamist Ideology.
“Many Sahrawi students were attracted to the ISF ideas despite the shift to the armed struggle and the idea of Jihad,” he noted. In response to the propagation of militant Islam, the Algerian authorities used an iron fist to wipe out Islamism form Algeria. Mustapha Salma Ould Sidi Mouloud explained that Algeria led large scale operations to arrest Islamists and anyone “who was wearing a bear”. He added that the pro-Islamist Sahrawi students were expelled from Algerian universities and sent back to the camps.
In his analysis of the genesis of Militant Islam in the Tindouf camp, Mustapha Salma Ould Sidi Mouloud said that “The Polisario Front made serious mistakes regarding religion.” “The Sahrawi community was initially conservative. When the Sahrawi people were taken to the camps they were converted into a communist society,” he noted.
Mustapha Salma Ould Sidi Mouloud stressed also that under the Polisario rule, the Tindouf camps residents were compelled to forego their religious practice such as fasting, in addition to being prevented from performing their daily prayers. In addition, there was no mosque built in the camps since 1976.
As a result, the Islamists who came back from Algeria were the only ones who tried to build mosques in Dakhla, Layoune and Smara camps. Mustapha Salma Ould Sidi Mouloud pointed out that “The Polisario Front both neglected and fought the religious dimension in the Sahrawi community. This created a big vacuum, which was filled by the Islamist Sahrawi students who came back from Algeria”.
He added that the new Islamist trend in the camps tried to provide religious counseling and led a movement of religious awakening. Due to unemployment and the lack of youth facilities, the appeal of Islamism became more pervading in the Tindouf camps. When the war started in Mali, the official statistics revealed that 120 to 125 were recruited by Islamist groups.
Mustapha Salma Ould Sidi Mouloud said that AQMI, an organization sprouting from Algeria and led by Algerian Islamists, has expanded to the Sahara. He revealed also that, Adnane Ibn al Walid, the spokesperson of the Islamist Group for Unification and Jihad is a young Sahrawi who was a public servant in the Union of the Polisario Youth.
“These Sahrawi youth from the camps took part in some operations claimed by Al Qaeda in Niger and some of them died in these attacks,” he said.
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