Mali Unrest 'Creating Al Qaeda Safe Haven'

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Mali Unrest 'Creating Al Qaeda Safe Haven'

Post by Guest on Thu Apr 05, 2012 9:15 am

7:25pm UK, Wednesday April 04, 2012
Al Qaeda is taking advantage of the political turmoil in Mali, which has seen the government overthrown in a military coup and Tuareg rebels seize key cities in the north, analyst and foreign governments have warned.

Three senior leaders of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) - the largely autonomous North African affiliate of the terrorist group - reportedly met in Mali on Monday.

Religious and security sources told AFP that three Algerians - named as Abou Zeid, Mokhtar Belmokhtar and Yahya Abou Al-Hammam - held talks with the Tuareg rebels who had captured Timbuktu the previous day.

Although the rebellion is led by the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), which wants an independent Tuareg homeland in northern Mali, the Islamist Ansar Dine (Defenders of the Faith) is said to now control the ancient city.

A worrying prospect is developing of an arc of regional instability which Aal Qaeda-core could exploit.
Valentina Soria, counter-terrorism and security research analyst

Iyad Ag Ghaly, the group's leader, has set up base at Timbuktu's military camp, according to residents.

His fighters put up their black jihadist flag across the city, where female residents were said to have started to wearing headscarves, as Ag Ghaly attempted to introduce Sharia, or Islamic law.

Former colonial power France confirmed the links between AQIM - which developed from the Algerian Salafist movement in 2007 - and Ansar Dine.

French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said: "We fear that in this confused situation al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) will take advantage of the situation to expand its perimeter of activity and strengthen the terrorist threat.

"Our fear is based on AQIM's endemic presence in the region and the links we know between AQIM and Ansar Dine."

Timbuktu, in northern Mali, is famed as an ancient trading city

A purported AQIM splinter group is also reported to be among the rebel forces that have seized the northeastern city of Gao.

Abdou Sidibe, a politician in the city, said: "Gao has been occupied, annexed by three groups. The MNLA is in one camp, Ansar Dine and the west African jihadists are together...

"The road to Bamako is closed, the road to Niger is closed, there is no food left in town," he said.

Reports of widespread rapes and looting have emerged from the city.

AQIM - which sprung from the Algerian Salafist movement in 2007 has taken advantage of weak governance and poverty across the region to mount sporadic attacks on local armies and kidnap Westerners.

France's Valero said: "We've been saying for months that regional countries must co-operate with a stronger response to fight AQIM.

"We want everybody to be part of it be it Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso ... and we want naturally that Algeria plays all its role in this situation and in face of the terrorist threat."

Mali's military has lost ground against the Tuareg rebels since seizing power in a coup

The Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) has said that a weakened al Qaeda is trying to use Saharan and sub-Saharan Africa to "reunite and re-energise".

A report by the security think tank said, although the group's aims are international, al Qaeda is exploiting local grievances through its proxies to secure a "stable foothold" in the region.

Author Valentina Soria said: "A worrying prospect is developing of an arc of regional instability which Aal Qaeda-core could exploit.

"Western intelligence and security services know that a range of new challenges are possible as jihadism evolves and disperses into territories of ungoverned, or loosely governed, space across large stretches of the African continent."

AQIM has already opened training camps in northern Mali, according to Rusi, and these have been attended by Nigerian militants seeking to carry out attacks in their own country.

The spread of al Qaeda and its affiliates, such as Nigeria's Boko Haram and Somalia's al Shabaab, across Africa could also have a knock-on affect in the UK, Rusi warns.

Disaffected British-Somalis have already been identified travelling to camps in Somalia and others could join them as militants exploit local grievances as a recruiting tool.

"The dynamics of jihadism in Africa may provoke direct terrorist attacks inside the UK, though to date there is no direct public evidence of this happening," Ms Soria said.

"Attacks on UK citizens and interests abroad, however, have already taken place, in Kenya and Nigeria."

Judith Tebbutt was freed in Somalia in March, six months ater being kidnapped from a coastal resort in neighbouring Kenya.

In Mali, Timbuktu had already seen a kidnapping by al Qaeda in which a German was killed and a Dutchman, a South African and a Swede taken.

Of course they can all return to the UK for Rest and Recuperation, between atrocities. Evil or Very Mad Evil or Very Mad Evil or Very Mad


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