Mali: how the West cleared the way for al-Qaeda’s African march
With the world’s attention elsewhere, Islamists and al-Qaeda have seized a vast area of northern Mali. David Blair reports.
A few days after desert gunmen swept out of the Sahara and captured Timbuktu, the city’s conquerors broadcast a message over its radio station.
“We are going to welcome some foreigners,” the inhabitants of this ancient trading centre in northern Mali were told. “Do not be afraid when you see them: we must all welcome them.”
A convoy of Land Cruisers duly arrived, laden with bearded fighters clad in sand-coloured turbans and robes. These were not rebels from the local Tuareg tribe, who had claimed credit for the fall of Timbuktu, but international jihadists from across the Muslim world including Algerians, Nigerians, Somalis and Pakistanis. This multinational parade drove home a harsh message: a new state had been born under the effective rule of al-Qaeda. Bewildered townspeople, who had only seen Tuareg insurgents up to that point, realised its true significance.
“We first saw the foreigners when they were in our city,” said Mousa Maigar, who witnessed the arrival of the column. “How they entered our country, we don’t know.”
Almost unnoticed by the outside world, a branch of al-Qaeda has seized a swathe of Africa covering more than 300,000 square miles. “Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb” (AQIM) and its allies have taken over an area of the Sahara more than three times the size of Britain, complete with airports, military bases, arms dumps and training camps.
Ever since the September 11 attacks, Western counter-terrorism policy has been designed to prevent al-Qaeda from controlling territory. Yet that is exactly what AQIM has now achieved. Its new domain covers the regions of Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal in northern Mali. This area is already serving as a base for training and recruitment. But AQIM’s new domain also lies across a trans-Saharan smuggling route employed to run cocaine to Europe. The movement will have every opportunity to profit from drug trafficking. Already, equipment that was supplied to combat al-Qaeda has fallen into the hands of its fighters. Before the capture of northern Mali by Islamists in April, America had given military vehicles and satellite communications technology to the country’s army. In particular, the US supplied six counter-terrorism units with 87 Land Cruisers, along with satellite phones and navigation aids. AQIM fighters are now using these American donations, according to a serving soldier in the Malian army with decades of experience in the north.
Already, equipment that was supplied to combat al-Qaeda has fallen into the hands of its fighters. Before the capture of northern Mali by Islamists in April, America had given military vehicles and satellite communications technology to the country’s army. In particular, the US supplied six counter-terrorism units with 87 Land Cruisers, along with satellite phones and navigation aids. AQIM fighters are now using these American donations, according to a serving soldier in the Malian army with decades of experience in the north.
This is troubling news. AQ just pops its ugly head in places where the people can't defend their nation.
I'm really sad for the tuaregs teaming with AQ... I don't blame them, they probably thought they were coming for friendly help, but not to be a different kind of oppressive.
There are reports of tuaregs fighting vs AQ after the latter started to boss the former : "I helped you, so now you're my bitch"-style. Tuareg have a rich cultures, unfortunately, they made friends with salafis, who don't see them as anything better than manpower to take over places, and will want to impose their own Shariah on them...
The European Council on Monday gave the green light for a civilian mission to counteract terrorism and organized crime in Africa’s Sahel region, the council said in a statement.
The mission, headquartered in Niger’s capital Niamey, will be staffed with a team of around 50 international and 30 local specialists. Liaison officers will be based in Bamako (Mali) and Nouakchott (Mauritania).
The Sahel forms a belt with an average width of about 400 kilometers, spanning the African continent from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea, between the Sahara desert in the north and the Sudanian Savannas in the south. It runs across the territories of Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Algeria, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Sudan and Eritrea.
Im really curious as to what the Tuaregs are upto now.
Judging from news reports Ive pieced together, I can guess the situation as eventually the Tuaregs felt A Dine was too powerful to take on, and some people made hasty declarations of unity in an attempt to salvage Azawad. However, they fought and seems the Tuaregs were beaten. Whether now Azawad is cleared away by A Dine, or a multinational force clears A Dine out, the Tuaregs just lost their chance at an independent state again. They should have known the world wouldn't tolerate for long an Islamist army raising hell. And now, they're going to be hunted and oppressed by the Malians when this is all over.
Idiots, the lot of them. Shouldn't have made that deal with the devil.
So .. the Tuareg rebels were allied with al-kaida but when northern Mali was taken al-kaida stabbed the Tuaregs in the back? Serves them right... MAYBE next time they will think twice allying themselves with fanatics.