For the last four months, troops from Mauritania and Mali have been seeking out and killing al Qaeda members hiding in the Wagadou Forest (actually a thousand hectares/2,500 acres of brush and trees in a semi-desert area), which lies astride the border. Al Qaeda have apparently been there since early last year. The Wagadou Forest has become a way station for cocaine and hashish al Qaeda escorts from Guinea-Bissau to the Mediterranean coast. This is how al Qaeda finances itself in West Africa these days.
Two years ago Al Qaeda has proclaimed the formation of a new chapter south of Algeria, among tribal rebels and disaffected urbanites in Niger, Mali, Chad and Mauritania. This was more PR than reality. There are some Islamic terrorists in the region, and these pronouncements appear to be an attempt to unify pro-Islamic terrorist elements via the Internet and the mass media. So far, the many disaffected groups in the region have shown little interest in uniting. Too many different objectives and al Qaeda has a reputation for being a loser.