News / Africa

Experts Warn Congress of Terrorist Influx into Mali

Militiamen from the Ansar Dine Islamic group sit on a vehicle in Gao in northeastern Mali, June 18, 2012. Militiamen from the Ansar Dine Islamic group sit on a vehicle in Gao in northeastern Mali, June 18, 2012.
x
Militiamen from the Ansar Dine Islamic group sit on a vehicle in Gao in northeastern Mali, June 18, 2012.
Militiamen from the Ansar Dine Islamic group sit on a vehicle in Gao in northeastern Mali, June 18, 2012.
TEXT SIZE - +
Cindy Saine
CAPITOL HILL — A U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs subcommittee held a hearing on the threat of Islamist terrorists in northern Mali.  

Senior U.S. government officials and research institute experts appeared in front of a congressional panel to discuss the situation in northern Mali, where Tuareg nomads launched a rebellion in January against the Bamako government in the south.  

Several of the witnesses told the panel that the Tuaregs' struggle for an independent homeland has been hijacked by well-funded Islamists from abroad, who are seeking to create a safe haven in the Sahara that is being compared to Afghanistan and Somalia.

Rudolph Atallah of the Atlantic Council has spent a lot of time in northern Mali, and says the situation there is becoming bleak.

"Mali is becoming a magnet for foreign fighters, who are flocking in to train recruits to use sophisticated weapons, built for and taken from [the late Libyan leader Moammar] Ghadafi's arsenal," said Atallah.

Atallah said Islamists associated with a recently-formed movement, Ansar Dine, and terrorist group al-Qaida in the in the Islamic Maghreb [AQIM] are recruiting young Tuareg boys with promises of food and money, and teaching them how to use weapons in militarized madrassas.  

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson was also careful to make a distinction between Tuareg rebels and Islamist terrorists.

"And I do make a very sharp and clear distinction," Carson said.  "The Tuareg issue is a political issue; the issue of AQIM and Ansar is a terrorist issue.  They need to be handled separately.  And we should not in the effort to respond to the Tuareg issue drive them into the hands of Ansar el-Dine or into the hands of the Islamists."

Carson also stressed that any military action should be carefully considered and planned by ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States.  He also said that regional groups and the United Nations should first focus on securing the capital in the south, before even attempting anything in the north.

"But I do want to underscore that undertaking a military operation in the north of Mali, an area that is the size of France, would require a major effort," Carson added.

Rudolph Atallah of the Atlantic Council agreed, saying that neighboring countries should first seek to cut off terrorists' sources of funding before attempting military action.

"A systematic regional approach, aimed at targeting illegal drug trafficking, tobacco and weapons should be addressed to curb terrorist acts as to money," Atallah noted.

The United Nations Security Council has said that it would be ready to support military intervention by Mali's neighbors to help the country retake the north from militant Islamist control, but would first need to see a detailed plan.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid