Al Qaeda are in my backyard

Our world is slowly unraveling itself. On February 1st, the Dr. Drame called to inform me that I was being med-evaced to D.C. for a tooth. Jon, Christine, Ravi, Evan, remember? I came home to Cello house after a biking accident with a cut on my chin and blood trailing down my white scarf. My entire lower jaw shifted slightly, and now one tooth has shifted itself to a position where the root is jutting forward, under a thin layer of gum.

Paul and I hastily packed, leaving for Ndioum. The next morning February 2nd, I got on a bus headed for Dakar. That morning, our security coordinator texted us to ask for a reply check-in text about our whereabouts and well-being. Apparently, three vehicles with Al Qaeda militants (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)) were headed toward Nouakchott, Mauritania with the intent of assassinating President Ould Abdel Aziz. One vehicle exploded, killing three militants. A second vehicle was intercepted by the Mauritanian forces containing explosives. The third vehicle was found abandoned along the Senegal River across from home: Podor. Two men were missing, suspected of fleeing into Senegal. These are men from the same group suspected of several kidnappings in Mauritania and for the deaths of two French nationals in Niger.

February 3rd, I am on a flight back to America. On the evening of February 4th (Senegal time), Paul called me to tell me what had been happening. Aidou called Paul that afternoon to tell him that the garage was rapidly filling with incoming Senegalese military wearing protective gear and machine guns. The PC Country director called Paul to tell him to lock all doors and stay put in the apartment. February 5th, Paul is packing his bags, buying breakfast from our omelet lady in what he calls a “Podor that you wouldn’t recognize.” The boutiques and stores are all closed, people are afraid to come out of their homes. It is eerily quiet and there is military all along the road between Taredji and Podor, searching. Tidiane, the volunteer coordinator of the North comes and picks Paul up, moving him and Jonno from Taredji to safety in Ndioum. Later that evening, the authorities say that they have found the two missing Al Qaeda. They were criss-crossing the river between Mauritania and Senegal to escape detection. One man blew himself up and the other was taken into custody.

And now we wait. I will be heading back to Senegal this week. We will be moving sites (most likely to Ndioum where our regional house is). Living on the border may no longer be safe.


2 responses to “Al Qaeda are in my backyard

  • Vincent

    Intense. Please stay safe, you two.

  • Jon

    Sounds absolutely crazy. With all the recent unrest in the Middle East/Africa, I was wondering if everything was going alright with you two. But then I remembered you saying that Senegal was the stablest African country… I guess it’s all relative.

    Take care of yourselves!


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