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If I have understood the article correctly, then the vehicles carrying suspected AQIM were travelling from Algeria across Tunisia to Libya. AQIM are decamping from Algeria in order to exploit the deregulation in Libya. This does not bode well for Libya. One thing Gaddafi did successfully was keep AQIM out of Libya.
'decamping', the word I used, probably wasn't the right word. I think AQIM are busy - more busy - in both Alg and Libya. Its hard to know for sure about Libya as yet because of the chaos there. But time will tell. Why would AQIM not take advantage of the turmoil in Libya at the moment? Eveything I've read about AQIM suggests they are very adaptable and do react to the sort of opportunity that Libya presents.
At the same time Aqim are on the attack they are exposing themselves, and about a dozen have been killed over last week, plus a few more captured Boumerdès : Les maquis de Chouicha toujours encerclés, 13 terroristes neutralisés - Actualité - El Watan
They attacked an airport (Jijel) with RPG - why not with SAM if they have them?
It is reported that Iran is buying up the missiles, there is perhaps a better market elsewhere.
Today I had contact with a facebook friend from Sebha again for the first time since April. He sounded very optimistic.
It looks to me like Aqim in the Sahel is almost a separate entity from the guys in the north.
So the Mauris attacked Wagadou forest with three aircraft, destroying two vehicles. Even Aqim acknowledged one of their top guys was killed, but called it a car accident. Mauritanian army strikes al-Qaeda base in Mali (Magharebia.com)
No Libyan SAM missiles were used by Aqim, and haven't been used anywhere yet AFAIK.
Then afterwards the area was swept by a thousand Malian troops. So it is over now?
"According to military affairs expert Sidi Mouloud, there are about 300 AQIM fighters around the Wagadou forest and they have at least 48 vehicles and two lorries. The terrorists also possess a number of arms caches, the analyst added.
"The threat to Mauritania from AQIM is a real one," Sidi Moulou said. "For a number of days, the Mauritanian security forces have been on the hunt for three fighters who slipped in across the eastern border, including one suicide bomber.""
There was a non-specific security alert for travellers in Mauretania a few days ago, could be about this suicide bomber.
Report from Mauretania, the no-go zone for civilians 800 x 200 kms along the border. Void of people including traffickers and even herders, it explains why western Maurtania is comparatively safe at the moment.
Fighting AQIM with their own weapons - small units witout a base, using armed Toyota 4x4s. Mauritania: fighting the invisible enemy - FRANCE 24
16 minute video, images from Wagadou and elsewhere
I have often wondered why, nearly a decade on from the first kidnappings in 2003, the Mali government has done so little to confront AQIM given that AQIM has bedded down in N.Mali and causes strife for neighbouring countries. Initially I put it down to a lack of resources on the part of the Malian military but when Mauri started taking the initiative in Mali, it was clear there was also a lack of will. More recently some evidence has emerged that there is much more to the issue. Some of the details are reproduced below:
A Malian lawmaker who has been outspoken about his country's alleged role in providing refuge to an offshoot of the al-Qaeda terror network says he was stopped in traffic on Sunday in the capital by armed men who warned him to stop talking about the matter.
Ibrahim Ag Mohamed Assaleh, a member of parliament from the Bourem region in the north of Mali, where al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or Aqim, is known to operate, says he was stopped at about 11:00 in Bamako by four men in a black Mercedes.
"They presented themselves as agents of the Malian intelligence service. I could see they had automatic pistols concealed under their clothes," Assaleh told The Associated Press by telephone just hours after the incident.
"The men told me I should stop speaking about the links between the Malian state and the drugs trade, and the Malian state and Aqim," Assaleh said.
[now] void of people including traffickers and even herders...
I just watched the Fr24 video in which the above was claimed. Even caravans once plied the sands he said! Just speculating but I doubt very much activity - legitimate or otherwise - has ever gone on in most of the area depicted (see below) particularly south of Lemghetti base - the Majabat al Koubra or 'Empty Quarter'. There are no wells for herders, the terrain is too dune-ridden for swift north-south transit, there have long been Mori army bases along the Chegga track and, as the post above suggests, adjacent north Mali is much safer anyway. So why risk going into Mori?
Very soon after crossing into Mali a few years ago (halfway up the orange zone) we came across a prominent but unmapped north-south track after the border line and before the established Taoudenni piste. Seeing it was no great surprise, nor was its purpose.
So I would say the Mori army units featured in the video have chased no one out and are merely patrolling the entirely unoccupied vertical border with Mali - that's why these guys have not had any contact all year. It may even be an empty PR exercise. Meanwhile as we have read, the real action seems to be along the horizontal border to the south - or the far north where 3 or 4 countries meet - oddly enough not covered by the graphic.
At least at Lemghetti there's been some action in the past. Some years ago a dozen or so soldiers were decapitated by MBM.
What piste did the 2009 kidnappers take from Nouadibou to Mali? Presuming they didn't take the N1.
I think the orange area on the map was drawn by some journo. Certainly the army is focusing on the south and protecting the capital, but not with the small mobile units I thought was the most interesting part of the video. Good thing they weren't around when you did your crossing.
Do you think they stand a chance against the bearded guys?
Actually Lemghetti was attacked by MBM in 2005 - many died there, but the beheadings were near Tourine (W of Zouerat), 2 years later. The Mori army certainly had its share before they got on top of it, as they have lately.
I dont know which way the 2009s went exactly, other than we heard they cut a corner through Western Sahara around Choum where they had a shoot out with the Mori army and put up a 'human shield', after which you presume they could have driven down the Champs Elysee, as long as it led over the border to Mali.
They didn't look super slick running for the cars in the video, did they, but what do I know. I suppose out there much must depends on who surprises whom.
Following the Libyan exodus, touaregs have given an ultimatum to Aqim in northern Mali: Leave! Mali : des Touaregs lancent un ultimatum à Aqmi - Temoust.org | Le portail du peuple touareg berbère Kel Tamasheq
""It seems that the Islamists have taken the threat seriously, because they left one of their bases in the Adrar Tigharghar, a mountainous desert, about 120 kilometers from the Algerian border," he says. These soldiers also arrested drug traffickers."
So they are not only threatening Bamako.
They have returned from Libya with huge loads of arms, according to some reports - including SAM missiles.
Without Qadhafi's support they would have had to bring cash, too. Perhaps Saif is helping out.
One touareg leader claimed they are "better equipped than the Malian army".
How interesting. An exodus of battle-trained Tuareg from Gaddafi's old army could finally rid north Mali of its scourge. They may well simply move in on some of AQIM's current operations, but as long as that's limited to smuggling and not kidnapping foreigners, tourists may overlook their recent alliances.
PS: I recall tracking down Adrar Tigharghar before. It's here where a failed French raid last year tried to free M. Germaneau (kidnapping #11) who was later declared shot in the crossfire/killed in retaliation (but probably died of ill health - a less useful story to both sides at the time).
How about this scenario - touaregs chase the islamists out of the desert and liberate the hostages, found in good shape.
Now THAT would make Bamako (and the Algies) look like fools. And juice up touareg claim to ownership of the desert.
Hehe - can dream can't I.
But it could happen.
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