“It’s one of the main depots of the Malian army,” a security source told AFP, adding that it had been built in case of “a long and difficult war.”A regional security source confirmed the seizure, saying the vast cache of weapons will “really boost AQIM’s striking power”, and adding: “It is really impressive what AQIM has found in the underground depot.”The source said the group “is today more armed than the combined armies of Mali and Burkina Faso”, Mali’s neighbour to the east.
This to me is fascinating and startling at the same time. Look at how fast these Islamist groups are spreading in Africa? They are taking advantage of the leadership vacuum caused by the Arab Spring, or making their moves in really poor and poorly governed countries. Where there is darkness on the continent, they are moving in to set up shop.
They are also capturing some pretty significant weapons and using this stuff to gain ground throughout the region. From the stuff in Libya that was ‘liberated’ during that fighting, to weapons depots in Mali that were taken by force.
And what gets me here is that I still haven’t heard what exactly Ansar Dine was able to get out of this weapon depot in Gao, Mali. Apparently they are now ‘more armed than the combined armies of Mali and Burkina Faso’, says the quote up top. So these non-state actors are now more armed than several countries combined? Yikes, and that is quite the accomplishment….It also makes you wonder about places like Syria, where that country is imploding and weapons depots–to include chemical and bio, could potentially be compromised.
Not only that, but now that the Muslim Brotherhood is in control of Egypt, whose to say that some of their weapons wouldn’t slip out into the world and find their way into Islamist’ hands? Or directly given to Islamists by a government that openly supports them. pfffftt.
We will see how it goes and somehow I don’t think this fire in the Middle East or Africa is going out any time soon. –Matt
African extremist groups linking up: U.S. general
June 25, 2012
By Lauren French
Three of Africa’s largest extremist groups are sharing funds and swapping explosives in what could signal a dangerous escalation of security threats on the continent, the commander of the U.S. military’s Africa Command said on Monday.
General Carter Ham said there are indications that Boko Haram, al Shabaab and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb – groups that he labeled as the continent’s most violent – are sharing money and explosive materials while training fighters together.
“Each of those three organizations is by itself a dangerous and worrisome threat,” Ham said at an African Center for Strategic Studies seminar for senior military and civilian officials from Africa, the United States and Europe.
“What really concerns me is the indications that the three organizations are seeking to coordinate and synchronize their efforts,” Ham said. “That is a real problem for us and for African security in general.”
The United States classified three of the alleged leaders of the Islamist sect Boko Haram, based in remote northeast Nigeria, as “foreign terrorist,” on June 20. But it declined to blacklist the entire organization to avoid elevating the group’s profile internationally. Police in Nigeria said members of the group seized a prison there Sunday and freed 40 inmates.
Islamist militant group al Shabaab is active in war-ravaged Somalia and has been blamed for attacks in Kenya. Last year it claimed responsibility for the death of Somali Interior Minister Abdi Shakur Sheikh Hassan.
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), an affiliate of al Qaeda based in North Africa, is mainly a criminal organization operating in the Sahel region. It kidnaps Westerners for ransom and aids Africa’s drug trade, according to intelligence officials.
U.S. and regional officials fear that a power vacuum in northern Mali following a military coup in March may open an expanded area of operations for Islamist militants. Some western diplomats talk of the country becoming a “West African Afghanistan.”
Ham said AQIM was now operating “essentially unconstrained” throughout a large portion of northern Mali, where Islamists have imposed a harsh version of Shariah law.
The group was a threat not only to the countries in the region, but also has “a desire and an intent to attack Americans as well. So that becomes a real problem,” Ham said.
Emphasizing that the U.S. military plays mainly a supporting role in Africa, Ham said the United States is providing intelligence and logistical help in the hunt for Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, whose Lord’s Resistance Army is accused of abducting children to use as fighters and hacking off limbs of civilians.
The International Criminal Court in The Hague indicted Kony for crimes against humanity in 2005, and his case hit the headlines in March when a video entitled “Kony 2012” put out by a U.S. activist group and calling for his arrest went viral across the Internet.
Ham said he was confident that Kony would ultimately be apprehended by African troops.
“This is an African-led effort,” Ham said. “It is the African Union increasingly taking a leadership role with a little bit of support from the United States military. We think that is the right approach.”