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

10 Migrants Drown, While 4,100 Rescued off Libyan Coast

All of those rescued are being ferried to Italian ports, with some arriving on Italy's southernmost island, Lampedusa, and others taken to Sicily and Calabria More

HRW: Saudi-led Airstrikes Use Banned Cluster Bombs

Human Rights Watch says photographs, video and other evidence have emerged indicating cluster munitions have been used in 'recent weeks' in airstrikes in Houthi stronghold in northern Yemen More

Hopes Fade of Finding Survivors of Nepal Earthquake

US military aircraft, heavy equipment and air traffic controllers arrive in Nepal to help manage growing piles of relief supplies clogging Kathmandu airport More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil Wari
X
Henry Ridgwell
May 03, 2015 1:12 AM
Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil War

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video Rural Nepal Suffers Brunt of Quake’s Devastation

Nepal is still coming to grips with the full extent of the devastation and misery caused by last Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake. Some of the hardest-hit communities have been cut off by landslides making it difficult to assess the precise toll. A VOA News crew has been among the first to reach a few of the smaller, remote communities. Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Sindhupolchak district, east of Kathmandu, which suffered greatly in Nepal’s worst quake in more than 80 years.
Video

Video Black Families Use Baltimore Case to Revisit 'Police Talk'

Following Freddie Gray’s death in police custody this month, VOA interviewed black families throughout the eastern U.S. city of Baltimore about how they discuss the case. Over and over, parents pointed to a crucial talk they say every black mother or father has with their children. Victoria Macchi has more on how this conversation is passed down through generations.
Video

Video Middle East Atheist Channel Defies Taboo

In Egypt, a deeply religious country in a deeply religious region, atheism is not only taboo, it is dangerous. It is sometimes even criminal to publicly declare nonbelief. Despite the danger, one group of activists is pushing back with a new online channel that defends the right not to believe. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Nepal Quake Survivors Tell Their Stories

Against all hope, rescuers have found a few more survivors of the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal last Saturday. Mountain climbers and hikers trapped in remote places also have been airlifted to safety, and aid is finally reaching people in the areas closest to the quake's epicenter. Survivors and rescuers are now recounting their experience. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Lessons for Germany, Europe Remain on Anniversary of WWII's End

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II will be marked May 8-9 in all European countries except Germany, which lost the war. How is the war viewed there, and what impact is it still having? From Berlin, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video 'Woman in Gold' Uses Artwork as Symbol of Cultural Identity

Simon Curtis’ legal drama, "Woman in Gold," is based on the true story of an American Jewish refugee from Austria who fights to reclaim a famous Gustav Klimt painting stolen from her family by the Nazis during World War II. It's a haunting film that speaks to the hearts of millions who have sought to reclaim their past, stripped from them 70 years ago. VOA's Penelope Poulou reports.
Video

Video Nepal Town Destroyed By Quake Counts Itself Lucky

Foreign search teams on Wednesday began reaching some of the communities outside Kathmandu that suffered worse damage than Nepal’s capital from last Saturday’s massive earthquake. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman is in Sankhu - a town of about 10,000 people - where there is relief the death toll is not higher despite widespread destruction.
Video

Video First Surgical Glue Approved for Use Inside Body

While medical adhesives are becoming more common, none had been approved for use inside the body until now. Earlier this year, the first ever biodegradable surgical glue won that approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on the innovation and its journey from academia to market.
Video

Video Somali Hotel Chain Owner Strives to Make a Difference

Many in the Somali diaspora are returning home to make a new life despite the continuing risks. Since 2011 when a military campaign against Al-Shabab militants began making progress, members of the diaspora community have come back to open hospitals, schools, hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Abdulaziz Billow in Mogadishu profiles the owner of a chain of hotels and restaurants who is helping to bring change to the once-deadly Somali capital.
Video

Video Study: One in Six Species Threatened with Extinction

Climate change is transforming the planet. Unless steps are taken to reduce global warming, scientists predict rising seas, stronger and more frequent storms, drought, fire and floods. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, a new study on species extinction underscores the need to take action to avoid the most catastrophic effects of rising temperatures.
Video

Video Taviani Brothers' 'Wondrous Boccaccio' Offers Tales of Love, Humor

The Italian duo of Paolo and Vittorio Taviani have been making movies for half a century: "The Night of the Shooting Stars," "Padre Padrone," "Good Morning, Babylon." Now in their 80s, the brothers have turned to one of the treasures of Italian culture for their latest film. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver reports.
Video

Video Child Migrants Cross Mediterranean Alone, Face Unknown Future

Among the thousands of migrants making the deadly journey by boat to Europe, there are unaccompanied girls and boys. Some have been sent by relatives to earn money; others are orphaned or fleeing war. From a shelter for young migrants in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Baltimore Riots Shed Light on City’s Troubled Past

National Guard troops took up positions Tuesday in Baltimore, Maryland, as authorities tried to restore order after rioting broke out a day earlier. It followed Monday's funeral of a 25-year-old black man who died while in police custody earlier this month. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Challenges Await Aid Organizations on the Ground in Nepal

A major earthquake rocked Nepal on Saturday and killed thousands, injured thousands more and sent countless Nepalese outside to live in makeshift tent villages. The challenges to Nepal are enormous, with some reconstruction estimates at around $5 billion. Aid workers from around the world face challenges getting into Nepal, which likely makes for a difficult recovery. Arash Arabasadi has the story from Washington.

Poll: Baltimore Police Charged

Poll archive

VOA Blogs