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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 August 2005, 10:56 GMT 11:56 UK
Secrets in the Sand
First broadcast August 2005
Boys holding stone tablets
In the last few years, the Sahara desert has become a focus of interest for the US military - vast and thinly populated with porous borders - it is seen by Washington as a perfect hideout for terrorists.

The BBC's Catherine Fellows sets out to separate fact from fiction in this two part series and asks how do people living there feel about their home being labelled a terror zone?

Part 2: Destabilisation

The US military has stated that the Sahara desert is a potential haven for terrorists because of several factors.

Smuggling is big business in the desert, the argument goes, and can provide a means of financial support for militant groups.

There are also Islamic fundamentalist groups establishing mosques and recruiting in the region.

PICTURE GALLERY

Finally, there is a history of instability. The Touareg people, who constitute the majority of the population in the Sahara, staged a rebellion in 1990, and, despite a peace treaty in 1992, still complain that their demands have not been met.

Secrets in the Sand travels to Kidal, in the Sahara of northern Mali and asks people there if they think their barren land is a fertile ground for terrorism.

The programme also considers claims that US interest in the region could itself be a destabilising influence.

We hear from Malians and Mauritanians who feel angry with President George Bush and neglected by their governments.

They say their leaders are not addressing local concerns, because they are too busy trying to please the US.

Secrets in the Sand is produced and presented by Catherine Fellows, with assistance from Mike McGovern of the International Crisis Group.


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