The Achievable Dream 5-part series - the definitive guide on DVD for planning your motorcycle adventure. Get Ready! covers planning, paperwork, medical and many other topics! "Inspirational and Awesome!" See the trailer here!
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So you've done it - got inspired, planned your trip, packed your stuff and you're on the road! This section is about staying healthy, happy and secure on your motorcycle adventure. And crossing borders, war zones or oceans!
On the Road! is 5.5 hours of the tips and advice you need to cross borders, break down language barriers, overcome culture shock, ship the bike and deal with breakdowns and emergencies."Just makes me want to pack up and go!" See the trailer here!
Tire Changing!Grant demystifies the black art of Tire Changing and Repair to help you STAY on the road! "Very informative and practical." See the trailer here!
Ladies on the Loose! For the first time ever, a motorcycle travel DVD made for women, by women! These intrepid women share their tips to help you plan your own motorcycle adventure. They also answer the women-only questions, and entertain you with amazing tales from the road! Presented by Lois Pryce, veteran solo traveller through South America and Africa and author of 'Lois on the Loose', and 'Red Tape and White Knuckles.'
"It has me all fired up to go out on my own adventure!" See the trailer here!
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NOUAKCHOTT - death penalty has been requested Monday against three young Mauritanians affiliated with al-Qaeda, tried by the criminal court in Nouakchott for the murder of four French tourists in late 2007 in the south.
In February, Mauritanian theologian Mohamed El-Hassen Ould Dedaw said the accused had "repented" their role in the French killings during a government-mandated dialogue between religious leaders and prisoners.
However the proceedings of the trial may have changed their minds again.
During their trial the three youths presented themselves as "Al-Qaeda soldiers", acknowledging that they had been "trained in camps" of Al-Qaeda.
They reacted to their sentence with threats against France and President Nicolas Sarkozy.
"Our death sentence means the death sentence of all the French in Mauritania and even beyond, to Afghanistan," the youngest of the condemned, 22-year-old Sidna shouted.
Selon ces documents que Le Monde a pu consulter, les trois hommes avaient constitué une "cellule" terroriste financée par le vol et la revente, jusqu'au Sénégal et en Gambie, de véhicules 4 × 4 appartenant �* des Occidentaux. "Il est �* noter, relèvent les enquêteurs, que le vol de véhicules et de biens des Européens est légal du point de vue des oulémas de la mouvance salafiste."
By Andrew McGregor
Western anxiety over the spread of al-Qaeda-style Islamist militancy in the vast and inhospitable Sahara and Sahel regions of northern Africa has had unforeseen consequences for the survival of hardcore nomadic rebels operating in this eternally porous region. For ethnic-Tuareg insurgent leaders like Mali’s Ibrahim Ag Bahanga, this recent emphasis on security threatens the Tuareg’s traditional way of life that relies on their control of Trans-Saharan trade routes through laregly ungoverned space. Growing intra-regional security cooperation between the nations of the region (instigated and supported by the United States , France and others) is driving old-school rebels like Ag Bahanga to adapt to new circumstances. In this case, Ag Bahanga appears to be using the threat posed by al-Qaeda to effect a transition from rebel commander to counter-terrorist leader.
A Smuggler’s Paradise
Ibrahim Ag Bahanga’s hometown is Tin-Zaouatene, an oasis town located in remote northeast Mali abutting the Algerian border along an ancient Trans-Saharan caravan route. This former French colonial garrison town is still believed to be the center of lively cross-border smuggling operations. According to the Algerian press, gangs of Arab drug traffickers have had to pay large fees for “permission” to run their products north through Tuareg territory in the Kidal region. A small battle broke out earlier this year when Arab smugglers refused to pay Tuareg gangs for protection of a major cocaine shipment. The Tuareg reportedly seized the vehicles and drugs, but the Arabs responded by kidnapping a local mayor (El Watan [Algiers], January 27). As well as drugs, the lucrative smuggling trade moves cigarettes, fuel, migrants and arms across the poorly guarded borders.
... Accusations of Association with al-Qaeda
Ag Bahanga has rejected accusations from Bamako and elsewhere that he is associated with al-Qaeda operatives in northern Mali’s frontier region:
"The terrorist groups are based far from the regions in which we are established; they are based in Timbuktu. We are waging a war against these groups... [but] they have fled to the surrounding regions for fear of being pursued by our elements. We will not tolerate their presence in these regions as our cause is different from their cause; we will not hesitate in tracking them down (El Khabar [Algiers], July 26, 2008)."
Mali’s government and media have frequently accused Ag Bahanga of being a drug smuggler cloaking his activities under the guise of a desert rebel fighting for the rights of his people (Le Malien [Bamako], December 22, 2008). In the wider Malian Tuareg community, Ag Bahanga appears to have at least as many opponents as supporters, and there are many who will state that the militant leader does not speak for them.
Ag Bahanga led a raid on a military base at Nampala (close to Ag Bahanga’s hometown of Tin-Zaouatene) on December 20, 2008, killing between nine and twenty soldiers, including at least three Tuareg in government service. The government described the assailants as drug traffickers eager to eliminate the government presence near the Algerian border (Radio France Internationale, December 20, 2008; AFP, December 22, 2008). Ag Bahanga in turn demanded that the government honor the 2006 peace agreement, which called for development of the Kidal region in exchange for the Tuareg dropping their demands for autonomy. It was not long before the government and the Malian press began to tie Ag Bahanga to kidnappings and other activities carried out by the Algerian Groupe Salafiste pour la Prédication et le Combat (GSPC – later reconfigured as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb – AQIM) (L’Aurore [Bamako], January 26, 2009). Ag Bahanga has always denied involvement in the GSPC/AQIM kidnappings of foreign nationals in the Sahara/Sahel region, but frequently succeeded in capturing Malian soldiers in groups of 20 to 30 at a time, suggesting these troops were poorly trained, ill-led and possibly uneager to combat the Tuareg on their own forbidding turf. The Malian government negotiated the release of these prisoners by sending representatives to Tripoli for talks with Ag Bahanga’s representatives, with the mediation of the Libyan ruler’s son, Sa’if al-Islam Qaddafi (al-Jazeera, March 26, 2008).
.... The 2008-2009 Campaign
Malian president Amadou Toumani Touré described the Nampala attack as “unacceptable” as the target had “no strategic interest” (L’Essor [Bamako], December 22, 2008). In a military sense the president may have been correct; for smugglers, however, the base at Nampala was of major strategic interest. The government responded to this incident and the continuing capture of government troops with a major offensive using helicopters, Malian army regulars, Tuareg loyalists and Arab militias (L’Indépendant [Bamako], December 29). The offensive succeeded in overrunning a number of rebel bases in January 2009, including Ag Bahanga’s main base at Tinsalek in the Tigharghar Mountains (AFP, January 25, 2009). With government forces refusing to accept an offered ceasefire, Ag Bahanga’s lieutenant, Hassan Ag Fagaga, deserted his leader, bringing 400 fighters with him to a government base as the first step in disarmament and integration into the Malian army, though this move may only have been designed to preserve the Tuareg fighting force for another day rather than risk its annihilation in a campaign that was suddenly going badly. By early February, Ag Bahanga appeared to have fled in the direction of Algeria, though not without first pledging continued armed conflict (Radio France Internationale, February 6, 2009).
The Transition to Counterterrorism
By January 2010, Ag Bahanga appeared to have given up on his demands for Libyan mediation and was reported to be in Algeria, expressing his commitment to reviving the 2006 peace agreement with the help of Algerian mediators (El Watan [Algiers], January 23). Ag Bahanga’s arrival was reported to have followed preliminary talks in which his aides had offered the movement’s services in driving AQIM out of the Sahara/Sahel region (L’Observateur [Bamako], January 27).
There were reports that Hassan Ag Fagaga and Hama Ag Sidahmed were also in Algeria at this time, attempting to persuade Algiers of the ATNMC’s usefulness as counter-terrorists (L’Observateur, January 10). A source described as close to Ag Bahanga, Osman Ag Mohamed claimed the ATNMC was tracking the AQIM unit holding three Spanish aid workers hostage and would take action if they could be pinned down. Osman Ag Mohamed denied the movement had any association with AQIM. “The order is not to have relations with [al-Qaeda]. In 2006 there were clashes with them and we do not want these to be repeated because that would benefit the Malian army” (ABC.es, January 18). In a 2008 interview, Ag Bahanga challenged the government’s accusation of cooperation with terrorists, comparing the record of his group with that of the government:
"I say that terrorism in this area has always been a fabricated project by Bamako in order to tarnish the image of the Tuareg every time they demand their rights and dignity. We know that they have tried to attribute terrorism to the Tuareg for 18 years. Mali has never confronted terrorism, but we have confronted terrorist groups in this area. Many of us were killed in many battles, and we are against the presence of Salafi groups in the entire region, contrary to the Malian Government, which encourages them and always says that the Tuareg are the main support for terrorism. However, everyone knows that we not only denounce terrorism, but we also fight it in this region despite the fact that we are small in number."
Some Tuareg continue to jealously guard their traditional (and profitable) role as the guardians of the Trans-Saharan trade routes (though Tuareg “protection” could often resemble extortion). The arrival of national borders and government security forces in the vast deserted regions they once controlled is designed to put an end to a traditional way of life. One man’s smuggling is another man’s time-honored trade, and Ag Bahanga is undoubtedly both rebel and smuggler. It remains to be seen if Algeria will sponsor Ag Bahanga’s fighters as counter-terrorists. Ibrahim Ag Bahanga would probably like nothing more than to be reintroduced into the frontier region with fresh arms and an official government sponsor. Algerian forces have already negotiated the “right of pursuit” to allow cross-border incursions in hot pursuit of terrorists. Though the Algerians are not fond of Ag Bahanga’s repeated sabotage of their attempts to mediate a peace settlement in northern Mali, they are actively considering a wide range of new strategies to secure their southern borders and there is still a chance that Ag Bahanga may become part of these designs. The mainstream ADC has already agreed to act as a counter-terrorist force in northern Mali, but Bamako has clearly stated Ag Bahanga is no longer welcome in Mali (Tout sur l’Algerie, July 20, 2009; L’Aurore, July 20, 2009).
The offensive was led by Colonel Elhadj Gamou, a Tuareg, and Colonel Mohamed Ould Meïdou, an Arab from Timbuktu (L'Indépendant [Bamako], February 4). The combination of these two hardened officers with an intimate knowledge of northern Mali's barren and inhospitable terrain shattered Ag Bahanga's forces in a matter of weeks. At the risk of pitting Tuaregs against Arabs, Bamako has allowed Colonel Meïdou to assemble a force of several hundred Bérabich Arabs for the work of eliminating Ag Bahanga's rebels (Jeune Afrique, January 27). Hama Ag Sidahmed, an ATNM spokesman, alleged that Mali's regular army has yielded its place to combined Arab-Tuareg militias designed to fight the Tuareg rebel movement (L'Indépendant [Bamako], February 4). The Bamako government is dominated by the southern Bambara, part of the larger West African Mande group.
Security forces reported the capture of 22 rebels and quantities of vehicles, fuel, food, arms (including heavy machine guns), and ammunition as they swept through the Tuareg camps. A Malian government official claimed that "All the operational and logistical bases of the group of Ibrahim Ag Bahanga have been taken and are under the control of our army and security forces" (Independent, February 11; L'Essor [Bamako], February 11). A spokesman for Ag Bahanga later denied in an interview that any rebel bases had been captured, claiming that the only bases taken by the military belonged to Algerian traders (BBC, February 11). Ag Bahanga's main base was at Tinzaoutin, close to the Algerian border. Other bases were located at Tin Assalek, Abeïbara, Boureïssa, and Inerdjane (L'Essor, February 11). From these locations his men took scores of soldiers hostage and planted land mines on routes likely to be used by the military....
On February 6, a Malian army officer spoke to the French press from the remote northern region, stating that Ag Bahanga was "no longer on Malian territory" (AFP, February 6). Algerian officials monitoring implementation of the Algiers agreement confirmed Malian reports that Ag Bahanga had crossed into Algeria with Malian troops in a pursuit as far as the border (Ennahar [Algiers], February 6). As the government offensive continued, ATNM fighters and members of Ag Bahanga's own family began to pour into camps where former members of the dominant Tuareg rebel group, The Alliance for Democracy and Change (ADC), were gathering for a disarmament ceremony in the town of Kidal rather than follow Ag Bahanga across the frontier (Radio France Internationale, February 12). One of the leaders of those seeking reconciliation with the government is Lieutenant Colonel Hassane Fagaga, who twice deserted the army to join his rebel cousin, Ag Bahanga (L'Essor, September 18, 2007).
Algiers- Touati Othman, alias "Othman Abul Abbas", member of the Salafist group, who was also the mufti of the organization "Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat", has surrendered to security services in Boumerdes the end of last week
He also mentioned the willingness of a large number of elements of the phalanx to go after pressure from security services and the loss of any popular support and the scarcity of new recruits. Abu El-Abbas revealed the day after his surrender "to the problems faced by armed groups in the bush", including difficulties related to living conditions following the terrorist search operations carried out by the PNA, but also the absence of a religious authority to legitimize suicide bombings, kidnappings and terrorist activity.
It seems that the pressures of former GSPC, scholars and theologians have messed some command of that terrorist organization primarily in terms of recruitment which has seen a sharp decline. The recent fatwas of the scholars and theologians who some challenged the "jihad" in Algeria and condemned the attacks by the GSPC and its Droukdel destabilized elements, as stated elsewhere Abu El-Abbas
Given this situation, Droukdel had already sent a message to the famous theologian, one of the leading ideologues and most esteemed in the world, the Mufti of Al-Qaeda known as the "spiritual father" of global jihad namely Mohamed Al Makdissi to legitimize its actions and provide support to the GSPC and legitimize suicide bombings, but he chose not to respond. He refuses to recognize Droukdel as a jihadist?
El-Abbes' surrender marks the latest in a series of defections from al-Qaeda. Another terrorist, Grig-Ahsine Abdelhalim, turned himself in the same day as El-Abbes. The Algiers native joined the GSPC in 1994 after escaping from Batna's Tazoult prison.
..."You can consider they're only 400 in the desert, but they now dominate a zone half the size of Europe," says a French official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because his job is to monitor the zone.
...To the north of Gao is al-Qaida's main desert base, set in mountains near Terargar. The fact that AQIM can run a training camp and resupply base in broad daylight highlights how little control local authorities have over northern Mali.....
....The Tuareg are the best armed and disciplined nomads, the overlords of the desert, and they have never been considered close to Islamists. But some Tuareg from the younger generation now work for the drug runners, thus coming in contact with AQIM militants.
Tribal chiefs insist they do everything to prevent the AQIM-drug connection from growing. But the nephew of a prominent Tuareg chief, for instance, has been detained in Algeria with a drug shipment.....
"The Tuareg have absolutely nothing to do with al-Qaida," says Bajan Ag Hamatou, the Amenokal, or king, of a powerful Tuareg confederation based around Menaka, an area just east of Gao. "But what can chiefs do when the young have no jobs and no camels?"
Hamatou, whose family has ruled with absolute power for centuries, is seeing authority slip through his hands. Though he won't openly admit it, the Amenokal now sees rival power brokers rising in the desert: the men doing business with al-Qaida and with cocaine.
"It's very worrying, because the drug money and the Islamists are polluting everything," Hamatou warned. "When you spend your time making money with al-Qaida, you end up thinking like them......
If U.S. and European forces don't help hunt down AQIM, he worries, "it's going to become much, much worse than just a few kidnappings."
Algiers- A penitent who surrendered, a week ago, to the security forces after 17 years in underground terrorist groups in the forests of Tizi Ouzou, said he had decided to leave the armed activity after having realized that there was no reason to remain among these wild hordes.
... According to information collected by Intelligence Online with Tuareg opposition, this episode confirms the complicity of certain officers with jihadists Mali. Useful information would only partially exploited cons of several groups of sheikhs AQIM, including Ben Abdelhamid Abou Zeid Moctar Laouar Yaoui Djoudi and that operate in the Sahel zone. They have received, between February and April of ammunition from the barracks in Mali. In counterpart, money (from ransoms and drug trafficking) would be invested in the Gao, Mopti and Bamako ...
In Paris, the security services reject these allegations of complicity in large scale, even if similar information was collected. To preserve a vital relationship with the local authorities (IOL No. 615), they simply explain the reported collusion by the weight of community ties. And putting on the account of the vast desert expanses to control the burr of stalking against AQIM
The Algerian security services have established a blacklist containing the names and portraits of suspects belonging to terrorist groups activating in the Sahel-Saharan Africa. This list has 108 suspects, including 21 in Algeria.
Mauritanians are the majority of names on the list, or 34 elements.
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