As the US with Hillary Clinton and the Monarchs of Qatar and Saudi Arabia were busy arming and funding the phony Syrian Freedom Movement, the Libyan Freedom has come at great expense. Armed militant factions have resumed fighting and the Tuareg fighters have returned with heavy arms to Mali. In a few weeks time, the Malian army chose a coup d’etat and the MNLA fighters have now occupied northern Mali, the size of the state of Texas.
Mali’s perfect storm of woes creates a perfect militant breeding zone
(France24) – With its legendary cities such as Timbuktu conjuring images of ancient trade junctions, its undulating Saharan sands and its distinctive indigo-scarf encased nomads, Mali has all the features of a perfect tourist destination. But a recent slew of developments have combined to produce a perfect storm of crises in this West African nation – one that many fear will be exploited by Islamist militants.
Mali has been in disarray since a March 22 military coup in the capital of Bamako opened a window of instability that was seized by rebels in the north, enabling them to sweep through key northern cities and control a swathe of territory as large as France.
A vast country that spans the Sahara desert and the African savannah called the Sahel, Mali is home to the sort of forbidding terrain that traditionally affords shelter to smugglers, traffickers, insurgents and militants. There’s little doubt that the region is home to al Qaeda’s North Africa branch, also known as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) .
Days after rebels seized Timbuktu over the weekend, the AFP quoted unnamed security and religious sources as saying three of the four top AQIM leaders were in the historic northern Malian city. Algerian-born Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, Mokhtar Belmokhtar (also known as “Mr. Marlboro” for his smuggling operations) and Yahya Abou Al-Hammam took part in a meeting with the city’s imams.
The reports could not be confirmed and it is difficult to ascertain exactly who controls the UNESCO World Heritage city that for centuries has been synonymous with Africa’s mysterious inaccessibility.
TUAREG REBELS CALL TRUCE AND INDEPENDENCE
A spokesman for the Malian Tuareg rebel group, said it had declared the independence of the northern region of Azawad, calling for a unilateral ceasefire after claiming to have successfully conquered the area.
“Since the coup, we have had no functioning institution, constitution or government, so our national liberation movement has put in place an army capable of securing our land”.
Attaher claimed that his MNLA group (Mouvement National pour la Liberation de l’Azawad) had “some international legality” through an “executive office capable of forming democratic institutions”. Stressing the region’s right to autonomy, Attaher spoke of “the massacres and actions against the people of Azawad for 50 years since Mali’s independence”.
Booman’s fp story from January 2011: Trouble in the Maghreb.
More below the fold …
Mali ex-rebels to tackle al-Qaeda
(BBC News) July 20, 2009 – The main group of Tuareg ex-rebels in Mali has agreed to help the army tackle al-Qaeda’s North African branch. Both groups roam across the Sahara Desert and correspondents say the deal could prove significant.
The agreement was brokered by Algeria’s ambassador to Mali. Algeria is where al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb stages most of its attacks.
In June, the group killed a British hostage who was being held in Mali after being seized in Niger. Two weeks later, after the president declared an all-out war on the group, the army said it had seized an al-Qaeda base near the border with Algeria. However, the group remains active in the region and has also staged attacks in Niger and Mauritania. Just last November, gunmen in Mali have abducted two French citizens from their hotel in the central town of Hombori.
The BBC’s Martin Vogl in Mali’s capital Bamako says the Malian and Algerian governments will both be pleased to have Tuareg forces as part of their offensive against al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. The Tuareg know how to operate in the desert perhaps better than anyone else and could be the government’s best hope of beating al-Qaeda in the region.
MALI: A timeline of northern conflict
DAKAR, 6 April 2012 (IRIN) – After decades of failed Tuareg secessionist rebellions, a separatist group, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) has declared an end to military operations in northern Mali, having achieved their objective: military control of the three regions of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu, which will form a new state. A separate Islamist group, Ansar Dine, which has different objectives from the MNLA and seeks to impose Sharia law in Mali, also took part in the fight and claims to have wrested control of Timbuktu from the MNLA – high tensions are reported between the two groups.
Below is a chronology of key events.
July 1891: Colony of Soudan Français (French Sudan) created, including much of what is today Mali.
"But I will not let myself be reduced to silence."