NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania, Oct. 28 (UPI) -- Regional cooperation is needed in the fight against al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb but many potential allies are content to point fingers, a specialist said.
Heavy weaponry lost during the Libyan war is in the hands of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, French newspaper France 24 reports. Its journalists were embedded recently with a counter-terrorism unit in the deserts of Mauritania.
The report said Mauritanian officials say AQIM now has surface-to-air missiles in its possession that can down a commercial airliner.
Mauritania declared parts of its desert a demilitarized zone in 2008 to combat terrorist groups like AQIM, the North African branch of al-Qaida.
Authorities there said, however, that close cooperation between countries in the region is the only effective strategy against AQIM.
Mohamed Mahmoud Adoulmaaly, a newspaper editor and AQIM specialist, told France 24, however, that regionally cooperation was unlikely.
"Algeria spends it's time warning against the French presence and not giving any support, same goes for Niger," he said. "The interests of these countries are all totally divergent."
AQIM took responsibility for a September attack on the Cherchell Military Academy in Algeria that left 16 students and two civilians dead. Washington had earlier acknowledged that AQIM had issued threats against chartered planes in Algeria.
U.S. counter-terrorism officials told reporters during a recent background briefing that "these regional nodes are the way of the future" for al-Qaida.