Amid growing instability in the Sahel, Spain is asking its citizens not to travel to the Tindouf camps with Madrid citing “imminent” and “real” terrorist threats in the region.
Rabat – Spain has warned Spanish citizens active in the Polisario-run Tindouf camps in Algeria of the high risks of terrorist attacks. In a radio interview earlier today, Margarita Robles, the Spanish Interior Minister, urged Spanish citizens already in the camps to be vigilant, saying that the region is the target of “serious” terrorist threats.
“This is about a real threat, confirmed by foreign secret services working in the region,” the Spanish minister said in the interview with Cadena Ser, a private radio channel in Spain. “The risk of terror strikers is imminent in these camps and we are very preoccupied by this alarming situation.”
The statements are a follow-up to an earlier message from the Spanish foreign affairs ministry. That message, issued on a day before Robles’ interview, on November 27, called on Spanish citizens to refrain from travelling to the camps “because of heightened instability in Northern Mali and an increase in terrorist activities in the region.”
Rising levels of insurgencies and combat in the Sahel region, added the statement from the Spanish foreign ministry, have resulted in extremely “high risks of kidnappings and terrorist strikes in the region.”
These alarm ringing statements come as terrorist groups like al Qaeda and ISIS promise to use Africa—especially the extremely fragile Sahel region— as a rear base to rise from the crushing territorial and personnel losses they have recently sustained in the Middle East, where the most recent blow for international jihadism was the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi during a raid by US forces.
“Experts feel that Spanish citizens are a preferred target for jihadists, who consider Spain one of their biggest enemies after France and the United States.,” Spanish outlet El Pais reported earlier today.
But the security warnings also come as suspicions mount about the probable links between the Polisario leadership international terrorist groups with aims of wreaking havoc in North Africa.
Last month, international security experts and governments representatives, speaking at the UN 4th Committee, raised concerns about Polisario’s links to various terrorist groups, most notably ISIS, Hezbollah, and Al Qaeda.
“In December 2018, I interviewed several former Polisario prisoners and relatives of former inmates based in Dakhla. Through their accounts, I learned not only about the extreme abuses they had endured during their imprisonment, notably brutal torture, but also about the security problems associated with collusion between the Polisario and the main international terrorist organizations,,” one expert said.
Meanwhile, Polisario has been quick to respond to Spain. Polisario “regretted” Spain’s move, dismissing its warnings as politically motivated and done in collusion with Morocco to tarnish the breakaway movement’s reputation.
“The Government of the Sahrawi Republic and the Frente POLISARIO express their deep regret and astonishment at this suspicious statement because warning against visiting the Sahrawi refugee camps is not justified, and considers the move to be motivated by political motives emanating from the blatant complicity that seeks to harm not only the refugees themselves but also the host country,” read the Polisario statement.