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

Tunnel Bombs Highlight Savagery of Aleppo Fight

Rebels have used tunneling tactic near government buildings, command posts or supply routes to set off explosives; they detonated their largest bomb this week under Syria's intelligence headquarters More

Sierra Leone Launches New Initiative to Stop Ebola Spread

Government hopes Infection and Prevention Control Units, IPC, will help protect patients and healthcare workers More

UN Official: Fight Against Terrorism Must Not Violate Human Rights

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says efforts by states to combat terrorism are resulting in large scale rights violations against the very citizens they claim to defend More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boyi
X
Jeff Seldin
March 05, 2015 2:36 AM
A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960s Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More