Rabat – Algeria is sounding alarm bells about security risks, mostly including the kidnapping of foreign nationals, in the Polisario-run Tindouf camps in Algeria.
Citing a statement the Algerian government addressed to MINURSO, the UN peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara, Algerian news outlet TAS reported earlier today that Algiers has warned of insecurity and kidnappings risks in Tindouf. The statement from the Algerian government, TAS added, also “provided a number of measures with the aim of protecting” the UN mission in the concerned areas.
Algeria is understood to have informed the MINURSO leadership that it received “information regarding preparations to kidnap foreign nationals in the refugee camps and in areas east of the [Morocco’s defense] wall.” The statement emphasized that Spanish nationals are among the primary targets of the kidnappings, confirming earlier warnings by Spain.
Last week, Spain, citing “heightened instability in Northern Mali and an increase in terrorist activities in the Sahel region,” urged its citizens already in the camps to be more vigilant, while warning those who were preparing for trips to the camps during the Christmas period against travelling to the region.
“This is about a real threat, confirmed by foreign secret services working in the region,” Margarita Robles, Spain’s Defense Minister—and as of last week acting Foreign Affairs Minister— said last week in a radio interview . “The risk of terror striker is imminent in these camps and we are very preoccupied by this alarming situation.”
However, Polisario, the breakaway movement seeking independence in Western Sahara and running the Tindouf refugee camps, fumed at Spain for what it saw as a politically motivated move and a peddling of pro-Morocco sticking points—pointing to collusion between the Polisario and terrorist groups in the increasingly fragile Sahel region—to tarnish the group’s reputation.
“Once again, the Spanish government unfortunately seeks to create ambiguity and confusion, and even paint a fabricated picture of fear and imminent danger in the Sahrawi refugee camps. It is the same government that had previously sought to compel humanitarian organizations to cease their activities in the camps and to reduce the humanitarian support provided to the refugees in consonance with the campaign led by Morocco and France,” read Polisario’s response to Spain’s security warnings.
But with similar warnings coming from Algeria, known for being the most outspoken supporter of Polisario’s cause and for providing the breakaway group with military and logistical support, it remains to be seen how the Polisario leadership will respond this time around.