News / Africa

    Libya Fears Influx of Mali Insurgents

    French troops take up positions in northern Mali January 19, as a French-led offensive drives al-Qaida-linked rebels from the larger towns in the region.
    French troops take up positions in northern Mali January 19, as a French-led offensive drives al-Qaida-linked rebels from the larger towns in the region.
    With French-backed government forces advancing in northern Mali after seizing the Islamist rebel strongholds of Timbuktu and Gao, leaders in neighboring Libya are raising the alarm, warning of a spillover that could see rebel Tuareg and al-Qaida-linked fighters fleeing into Libyan territory.
     
    A mass exodus of Malian rebels would pose a severe challenge for Libya’s new rulers. They are already struggling to contain security problems of their own, including Islamist-related violence in the country’s second city of Benghazi, which has gone through a series of bombings and assassinations in recent weeks.
     
    Last week’s attack on a natural gas plant in Algeria – mounted by al-Qaida militants opposed to the French intervention in Mali – has heightened fears in North African and Western capitals of more attacks by jihadists on energy facilities in Mali’s neighbors.
     
    “We know that if the situation in Mali deteriorates, it will have serious consequences for Libya,” says Foreign Minister Mohammed Abdulaziz.
     
    One factor in the Mali insurgency was the influx of hardened fighters from Libya after the downfall of Colonel Moammar Gadhafi. These fighters brought with them weapons plundered from unsecured Libyan arsenals in the weeks and months following Gadhafi’s downfall, say regional security experts.
     
    Libyan weapons
    Last November, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the jihadist mastermind behind the attack on the Ain Amenas gas plant in Algeria, bragged to a Mauritanian news website that al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) looted Libyan weapons during the eight-month-long uprising.
     
    French special forces drive through the city of Gao, Northern Mali, Jan. 30, 2013.French special forces drive through the city of Gao, Northern Mali, Jan. 30, 2013.
    x
    French special forces drive through the city of Gao, Northern Mali, Jan. 30, 2013.
    French special forces drive through the city of Gao, Northern Mali, Jan. 30, 2013.
    During an African Union summit in Ethiopia last week, Libyan Foreign Minister Abdulaziz talked with his counterparts from neighboring countries about how to cope with any spillover from Mali. One idea they discussed was urging the United Nations to deploy a peacekeeping force in northern Mali once the French intervention had concluded.
     
    “Our vision is that when the operation ends, the Security Council should consider deploying a limited peacekeeping force in the area,” said Abdulaziz.
     
    During the Libyan civil war, Tuaregs – mostly from Mali – served in Gaddafi’s military and security agencies and were among the most dependable troops fighting against the NATO-supported rebellion. After Gadhafi's fall, thousands of them fled to make common cause with Tuareg separatists in Mali, subsequently forming an alliance with al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.
     
    Tuareg fighters

    The return of an estimated 2,000 to 4,000 experienced and well-armed Tuaregs strengthened the ranks of separatist insurgents and Islamist groups that attacked Mali’s army in early 2012, effectively seizing control of the north of the country in April.
     
    In December, Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan announced the closing of Libya’s southern border. Security experts greeted the announcement with skepticism, arguing that Libya didn't have enough military resources to police the length of the country’s southern borders of nearly 4,600 kilometers.
     
    Earlier this month, and just four days before al-Qaida-linked fighters from Mali attacked the Ain Amenas gas facility in Algeria, Libyan, Algerian and Tunisian leaders pledged to cooperate to improve border security.
     
    But all three countries are confronted by the same problem: long remote desert borders that are hard to monitor let alone police.
     
    Porous borders

    Even before the Arab Spring, jihadist fighters and traffickers in tobacco, drugs and guns could cross the desert borders with relative ease.  But those borders have become even less secure over the past two years, according to security expert Paul Sullivan, an analyst at the National Defense University in Washington, DC.
     
    “AQIM and others like them find moving about the deserts and in cities a lot easier than when the dictators slammed on just about everyone,” said Sullivan.
     
     The al-Qaida-linked fighters who mounted last week’s assault on the Ain Amenas compound are thought to have entered Algeria undetected by taking a circuitous route through Libya from their camps in Africa’s arid Sahel, mostly likely transiting the Salvador Pass on Libya’s border with Algeria and Niger, say U.S. and Libyan security sources.
     
    Speaking on Libya’s Alwataneya TV station last week, Libya’s Prime Minister Ali Zeidan said he was deeply worried about possible fallout from Mali. He called on North African countries and those in the Sahel region to the south to develop security plans to contain the violence.
     
    Libya is now focusing its forces on strengthening security around its oil facilities on the borders with Tunisia, Algeria and Niger, government officials say.

    You May Like

    Russia Sees Brexit Impact Widespread but Temporary

    Officials, citizens react to Britain’s vote to exit European Union with mix of pleasure, understanding and concern

    Obama Encourages Entrepreneurs to Seek Global Interconnection

    President tells entrepreneurs at global summit at Stanford University to find mentors, push ahead with new ideas on day after Britain voters decide to exit EU

    Video Some US Gun Owners Support Gun Control

    Defying the stereotype, Dave Makings says he'd give up his assault rifle for a comprehensive program to reduce gun violence

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora