Mauritania has accused Islamic insurgents from Algeria of attacking a Mauritanian army base in the Sahara desert killing at least 15 soldiers. Defence Minister Baba Ould Sidi said the gunmen were from the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) – suspected of links to al-Qaeda…. In recent months the Mauritanian government has arrested about 50 people accused of links with al-Qaeda.
Critics accuse the government of using the US-led war on terror to crackdown on Islamic opponents.
Uzbek authorities deny responsibility for the killings. The government claims the death toll was 173 people—law enforcement officials and civilians killed by the attackers, along with the attackers themselves. The government says the attackers were “Islamic extremists” who had an Islamist agenda and help from abroad.
Human Rights Watch found no evidence that any of the speakers at the protest promoted an Islamist agenda. According to numerous witnesses, their grievances were overwhelmingly about poverty, corruption, and government repression. Eyewitness accounts suggest the number of dead to be far higher than the government figure.
Since almost immediately after 9/11 attacks, a good many governments have used “Al-Queda” and “radical Islam” as a cover for more general crackdowns on their political opponents. How much longer will they get away with it? I suspect Uzbekistan is shaping up to be the major test case, and current results don’t seem very encouraging for human-rights activists.
More detailed discussion of similar concerns here.