Sep 15, 2012 No Comments ›› Pat Dollard
Excerpted from WND: Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb may be the big fish in northern Mali, but the African nation is seeing a rising tide of terrorist organizations looking to claim the title of top shark in the waters.
The Heritage Foundation’s Africa analyst Morgan Roach says several factors are making Mali a hub for terrorist activity. “Following the collapse of the Gadhafi regime in Libya, these well-trained rebels are coming back into the territory, the Sahel,” Roach said. “There’s been a massive influx of weapons in the area. A massive cache of weapons from Libya were completely looted, and we don’t know where these arms are. … We’re talking surface-to-air missiles.”
Another factor Roach cites: Northern Mali has slightly over 1 million people spread across a land area the size of France. The vast empty space provides any group with hundreds of square miles of open territory.
Roach says the power breakdown providing jihadists an opening began with the March military coup.
“The coup opened up an opportunity for Tuareg rebels, the MNLA, to move into the area. They’re mostly a secular group,” Roach said. “However, they joined together with an Islamist group, the Ansar al-Deen. Ansar al-Deen, while it is also a Tuareg group, they’re predominantly Islamist.”
Roach says the Ansar al-Deen succeeded in marginalizing their more secular partners.
“Ansar al-Deen was able to undermine the MNLA and kick them to the curb,” Roach said. “Ansar al-Deen then linked up with another group called the MUJAO.”
MUJAO stands for The Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, and Roach says they have teamed up with Boko Haram, the notorious church-bombing group fighting for control of northern Nigeria.
Yet Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb is still in the driver’s seat, Roach says, making Mali a volatile hotbed for terrorism.
“AQIM in particular, which is based in Algeria, has also been a very present group in the region,” Roach said. “So most of the north has been occupied by Islamists, and there has been no attempt by the interim government to reoccupy the region.”