jailhouse rock

The warden threw a party in the county jail/The prison band was there and they began to wail/The band was jumpin’ and the joint began to swing/You should’ve heard those knocked out jailbirds sing

Reports culled from Twitter (@Azelin, @GCTAT, @selectedwisdom, @themoornextdoor among others) and press reporting concerning foreign fighter and terrorist activity detail a number of arrests, trials or manhunts in areas of interest to foreign fighters.


The trial on appeal of three Mauritanians led to the court confirming the sentences. Mohamed Abdellahi Ould Ahmednah (death sentence) Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Khouna (3 years) and Didi Ould Bezeid (12 years) were retried for their involvement on the June 2009 assasination of a US national in Nouakchott, Mauritania. The reports provided some brief biographical details on Ould Ahmedah; that his father had died when he was young, that he had studied in a Madhara, that he was an itinerant salesman before joining AQIM in 2005. As well as the attack in Nouakchott he also participated in the attacks against the Mauritanian armed forces in Ghallawiya and Tourine.

The Mauritanian authorities made arrests on 04 May of two men of plotting to bomb Nouakchott for AQIM, on the anniversary of Osama Bin Laden’s death.

On 12 May, two more men were arrested for allegedly planning large-scale kidnappings of senior Mauritanian army officers on behalf of AQIM.

On 04 May, the Moroccan security forces dismantled what they reported to be an AQIM associated network. They arrested 15 persons. The group was named as the “Mujahideen Movement in Morocco”. The group is reported to have connections to an individual in detention since 2003.

On 11 May, a report on the influx of Tunisian and Libyan foreign fighters into the areas controlled by AQIM/MUJAO/Ansar al-Din was carried by Magharebia. The number cited was ‘hundreds’.


Following reports earlier this month of the detention of a Belgian and Tunisian national by the Kenyan authorities, over the weekend of the 12 and 13 May, the Kenyan press reported on that the authorities were looking for a German national and that they had arrested a Swedish citizen. The reports also mentioned that a United Kingdom national was on trial for terrorist related offenses and that in 2010 another German national had been detained and expelled. The Somali Transitional Federal Government reported that they had detained a foreign fighter linked to Saleh Nabhan. The individual was described as a possible Tanzanian national.

In April RUSI in their report, ‘Global Jihad Sustained Through Africa‘, carried a profile on Shabaab where they detail connections to foreign fighters. More recently, they have been quoted as stating that, “Britons are thought to make up about 25 per cent of the 200 or so foreign fighters that the Al-Shabaab group in Somalia currently fields, and who are engaging in a deepening war on neighboring Kenya and its tourist trade.”


Two more reports emerged of Tunisians traveling to Syria. A copy of the Syrian government list of detained foreign fighters was obtained by press (h/t @selectedwisdom). Reuters ran a story on a number of Tunisians who had traveled to Syria. The report has an item of interest that mirrors foreign fighter behaviour in Iraq. The families of Tunisians killed in Syria have all received, “the phone call”. This is a short phone call that states, “your son is a martyr”. The call is then terminated. Reports from the Iraq foreign fighter networks often mentioned phone calls to families.


On 15 May, the French authorities detained three persons in Lyon, who were described as ‘candidates for travel’ and possibly ‘about to depart’. Their destination was not detailed.

Are these arrests and manhunts as detailed in the press a weak indicator of emerging trends; weak because the arrest and manhunts are only one visible aspect of foreign fighter activity. Has interest in Afghanistan waned? Is Somalia the new destination of predilection for European-based foreign fighters? Why Somalia?

The Criminal Intelligence Service Canada write in their report ‘Strategic Early Warning for Criminal Intelligence’, that “Indicators are just what their name implies: conditions that, if observed, could be indicative of a threat’s emergence or its potential to emerge.” They later argue that “…crisis situations are often the culmination of a series of events and conditions, some of which will generate detectable signals or warning indications that, if correctly pieced together, can portend the coming calamity.” The CIA distinguishes between strategic and tactical warning analysis. “Tactical warning, as defined in this paper, seeks to detect and deter specific threats to US interests; the objective is to avoid incident surprise and thus block or blunt damage. Strategic warning addresses perceived dangers in broader terms, in order to inform policymaker decisions on general security preparedness—again to prevent or limit damage.”