Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Mauritania: AQIM reinforcements coming from Algeria

Timbuktu is now even more firmly in the control of the Islamists (mostly AQIM), as well as the entire region surrounding the town. Most of the Islamists' reinforcements have come from Algeria. Agence France Press (AFP), quoting Mali security sources, reported several dozen 'white-skinned' Algerians (i.e. Arabs) arriving in Timbuktu on the weekend of 24-25 November. Our own field contacts who gained access to AQIM camps confirmed that dozens had crossed over from Algeria and that French was being spoken, suggesting that some of them may have come from France (see below). As the Algerian border is heavily guarded and officially 'closed', this suggests that Algeria is lying to the outside world about its border security and/or sending its own Islamists to support AQIM.

Both are true. Algeria's DRS has been controlling the leadership and supporting AQIM since it was established in the Sahara-Sahel after the end of 2006. The AQIM leader, Abdelhamid Abou Zaid, is currently in command of the Islamist forces around Timbuktu. He is accompanied by Iyad ag Ghaly, leader of Ansar al-Din. Both men have long been associated with Algeria's DRS.

Although we have always known about the DRS links with and support for AQIM and Ansar al-Din, we did not know the strength of this support until we were able to access the camps and reconnoitre the Timbuktu region this week. This alters the military configuration of the whole region.

For more news and expert analysis about Mauritania, please see Mauritania Politics & Security.

© 2012 Menas Associates

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