African Countries Step Up Anti-Terror Efforts

By Stephen Mbogo | July 7, 2008 | 8:16pm EDT

Nairobi, Kenya ( - African countries are joining forces to crack down on terrorists and criminals, a move deemed necessary to deny terrorists safe haven on the continent.

"Some of the most recent terror attacks like the London bombings had some African link. It is increasingly becoming clearer that Africa must do more to break down the infrastructure the terrorists are finding useful here," said Cyprian Mugo, a Nairobi-based security expert.

According to the British Home Office, terror suspects charged with attempting to detonate bombs in London on July 21 -- two weeks after a deadly spate of bombings there -- have Eritrean, Ethiopian and Somali backgrounds.

Several other major Islamist terrorist plots in recent years have had links with eastern Africa.

Security ministers and intelligence officials from several African and Middle East nations met in Sudan recently for a regional counter-terrorism conference -- the second of its kind, after one hosted by Kenya last year.

Participants, who were joined by observer countries including the U.S. and Britain, agreed to improve intelligence-sharing.

Delegates attended from Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

Another meeting brought together African police chiefs met in the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa "to strengthen and promote joint strategies and come up with ways of exchanging intelligence information on criminal activities."

They signed an agreement to enhance cooperation in fighting terrorism and narcotics-smuggling and the facilitate extradition of suspects.

Mohammed Hussein Ali, the head of Kenyan police, said the aim was "to ensure that the perpetrators of these vices are tracked down through joint efforts by law enforcement officers from the region."

Terrorism, firearms trafficking, motor vehicle theft, organized crime and drug trafficking were the priority focus areas, he said.

During the meeting, Kenya also agreed to resume a debate on proposed anti-terrorism laws, long delayed because some Islamic and civil society groups complained that the draft bill discriminated against Muslims.

Kenyan deputy minister for security, Mirugi Kariuki, said the legislation would be harmonized with that of Tanzania and Uganda, whose anti-terrorism laws are already in operation.

"The [terrorism] menace has affected economic development in Africa," he said. "We cannot just sit down and ignore the problem."

In another sign of regional cooperation, chiefs of defense forces from 13 eastern African countries met in Uganda last August to discuss the establishment of a regional "standby" brigade.

The force would be expected to act against threats to regional stability, such as the long running conflict in Somali and the rebellion being waged by the cult-like Lord's Resistance Army in northern Uganda.

The brigade, which will have its headquarters in Ethiopia and secretariat in Kenya, is one of five such formations that will make up a continent-wide African Standby Force, which 53 African nations in 2002 agreed to set up.

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