The Coke Coast: Organized Crime and Extremism in West Africa

Read Part 1 of this series.

Late last year, four French tourists were gunned down in Mauritania where they were picnicking by a roadside on Christmas Eve, prompting the cancellation of the 2008 Lisbon-Dakar Rally. Identified as an al-Qaida "sleeper cell" by local officials, the two shooters were later picked up in Guinea-Bissau, where it was revealed that one of the men had lived there for two years and spoke the local Creole language.

The two men, along with three suspected accomplices, all Mauritanian nationals, were later deported to their home country. But the inability of law enforcement to function on a very basic level gave the story a disturbing twist: Law enforcement officials in the region eventually managed to locate the Mauritanians, with the assistance from French police, but not until after they had fled, completely undetected, across Senegal. In the end, the militants were only caught in Guinea-Bissau after they were discovered trying to photograph French officials there while plotting an attack against them.

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