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Who might be hiding Gaddafi?

Interesting Article: Gaddafi may be hiding on border with Algeria, say rebels by IAN BLACK / Tripoli published Wednesday 28 September 2011
A recent article by Ian Black, mentioned that Muammar Gaddafi may be hiding in a town on the border of Algeria and Tunisia. What was interesting was he mentioned that Gaddafi might be sheltered by Tuareg tribesmen. So who are they?



I recently spoke about the growing situation in Algeria on a previous post-Will Algeria be the next to fall? If so, by whose  hand? - where I mentioned the Tuareg tribesman's part in contributing to the rise of Al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The Tuareg (also known as Twareg or Touareg, Berber: Imuhagh, besides regional ethnyms) are a Berber nomadic pastoralist (the care, tending and use of animals such as camels, goats, cattle, yaks, llamas, and sheep. It may have a mobile aspect, moving the herds in search of fresh pasture and water) people. They call themselves variously Kel Tamasheq or Kel Tamajaq;("Speakers of Tamasheq"), Imuhagh, Imazaghan or Imashaghen ("the Free people"), or Kel Tagelmust, i.e., "People of the Veil". The name Tuareg was applied to them by early explorers and historians. The Tuareg today are found mostly in North Africa and West Africa. Some historians claim they progressively moved south over the last 2000 years. They were once nomads throughout the Sahara. The Tuareg are probably descended from ancient Saharan peoples described by Herodotus (ancient Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC (c. 484 BC – c. 425 BC). He has been called the "Father of History" since he was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a well-constructed and vivid narrative).
He described the ancient Libyan people of the kingdom of the Garamantes (The Garamantes (probably from Berber language: igherman; meaning: cities) were a Saharan Berber people who used an elaborate underground irrigation system, and founded a prosperous Berber kingdom in the Fezzan area of modern-day Libya, in the Sahara desert. They were a local power in the Sahara between 500 BC and 700 AD), of which archaeological evidence is found in the ruins of Germa (Germa, known in ancient times as Garama, is an archaeological site in Libya and was the capital of the Garamantes). Tuareg are mostly nomads. Traditionally, Tuareg society is hierarchical, with nobility and vassals. Each Tuareg clan (tawshet) is made up of several family groups, led by their collective chiefs, the amghar. The Tuareg people inhabit a large area, covering almost all the middle and Western Sahara and the north-central Sahel (see map above). Traditionally Tuareg practiced Animism while they were in the Atlas Mountains as Berbers, then with the onset of Arabs into North Africa, Islam came in and the Tuareg travelled south and mixed their animistic beliefs with Islam. For over two millennia, the Tuareg operated the trans-Saharan caravan trade connecting the great cities on the southern edge of the Sahara via five desert trade routes to the northern (Mediterranean) coast of Africa. Throughout history, the Tuareg were renowned and respected warriors. In the late nineteenth century, the Tuareg resisted the French colonial invasion of their Central Saharan homelands. Tuareg broadswords were no match for the more advanced weapons of French squadrons. After numerous massacres on both sides, the Tuareg were subdued and required to sign treaties in Mali 1905 and Niger 1917. When African countries achieved widespread independence in the 1960s, the traditional Tuareg territory was divided among a number of modern nations: Niger, Mali, Algeria, Morocco, Libya, and Burkina Faso. In Mali, a Tuareg uprising resurfaced in the Adrar N'Fughas Mountains in the 1960s, following Mali's independence. Several Tuareg joined, including some from the Adrar des Iforas in northeastern Mali. This second (or third) uprising was in May 1990. At this time, in the aftermath of a clash between government soldiers and Tuareg outside a prison in Tchin-Tabaraden, Niger, Tuareg in both Mali and Niger claimed autonomy for their traditional homeland. Negotiations initiated by France and Algeria led to peace agreements (January 11, 1992 in Mali and 1995 in Niger). Both agreements called for decentralization of national power and guaranteed the integration of Tuareg resistance fighters into the countries' respective national armies. As of 2004, sporadic fighting continued in Niger between government forces and Tuareg groups struggling for independence. In February 2007, a new surge of violence lead to "The Tuareg Rebellion of 2007-2009"  which began amongst elements of the Tuareg people living in the Sahara desert regions of northern Mali and Niger. In late 2008, the Tuareg were brought under increased international attention following the kidnapping in Niger of two Canadian diplomats and four European tourists by groups associated with Al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb  (AQIM), who held their victims somewhere in northern Mali. Late April 2009 saw the release in northern Mali of the Western hostages taken by the AQIM, including the Canadian diplomat to Niger Robert Fowler. The original two abduction incidents (two Canadian diplomats, their driver, and four European tourists seized weeks later) were blamed by Niger on rebels. Western news sources quoted a variety of observers who believed the hostages were taken by Tuareg smugglers, perhaps associated with rebel groups, who then sold them to the AQIM. In May 2009, Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure agreed after talks between Mali's defense minister and Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, to a military cooperative agreement to secure the Saharan borders where Tuareg rebels, AQIM militants, as well as smugglers and criminal gangs, operated. Discussions with the governments of Niger and Mauritania were proposed. Under the agreement, states would receive arms from Algeria and engage in joint operations against AQIM and other threats. Based on international attention, the well-known Tuareg rebel leader Ibrahim Ag Bahanga came into the spotlight, Ag Bahanga had sought refuge in Libya from 2009 to avoid the crackdown. He was killed in Northern Mali recently. Although the circumstances surrounding his death are unclear, it is believed that it was linked to the trade of Libyan weapons. Ag Bahanga "was recently suspected by many embassies of having recovered arms from Libya thanks to the rebellion launched in the country...against the regime of Muammar Gaddafi." Ag Bahanga, labeled the "enfant terrible" of Northern Mali by President Amadou Toumani Toure, was sought by the Malian government before seeking exile in Libya. He returned to Mali earlier this year. Prior to his death it was reported that he had shipped large quantities of weapons back to Mali for his tribal allies. Those weapons include a stockpile of SA-7, SA-14 and SA-24 shoulder-fired missiles called MANPADs. Highly accurate, these heat seeking missiles are easily launched from a shoulder or a truck bed and are able to take down low flying aircraft. The missiles, according to a European Union counter-terrorism expert, were smuggled to AQIM strongholds in Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Algeria. Regarding his death, Mobile France 24 reported that a military source said, "It was during a row with one of his own men when someone shot him near the border with Mali and Niger. He had got his hands on lots of weapons in Libya, where they are fighting and he hid them on the border with Algeria and Niger. He was recruiting fighters to launch a new rebellion in Kidal." On a bizarre side note, according to Andrew McGregor, Director of Aberfoyle International Security, a Toronto-based agency specializing in security issues related to the Islamic world, Ag Bahanga, at one point, had unsuccessfully offered to turn his rebel movement into a transnational security force capable of expelling al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) from the Sahel/Sahara region, he had also come out against AQIM’s Salafi-Jihadists quoted as saying: “Our imams advocate and educate our youth and families against the religion of intolerance preached by the Salafists, which is in total contradiction with our religious practice. In fact, on an ideological level, the Salafis have no control over the Tuareg. We defend ourselves with our meager resources, and we envision a day soon be able to bring Bamako to account” (El Watan, August 29). Besides the West African Tuareg who rallied to Qaddafi, Libya is home to a Tuareg community of roughly 100,000 people, though the regime has never recognized them as such, claiming they are only an isolated branch of the Arab race. Though some Libyan Tuareg have opposed Qaddafi, many others have found employment in the Libyan regular army, together with volunteers from Mali and Niger. As a result, many Libyans tend to identify all Tuareg as regime supporters. Near the desert town of Ghadames local Tuareg were threatened by rebels seeking to expel them from the city before Algeria opened a nearby border post and began allowing the Tuareg to cross into safety on August 30 (Ennahar [Algiers], September 1; El Khabar [Algiers], September 5). Five hundred Algerian Tuareg were reported to have crossed into Algeria while the border remained open (Le Monde, September 8). Some of the refugees promised to settle their families in Algeria before crossing back into Ghadames with arms to confront the rebels (The Observer, September 2). At least 1,500 Tuareg fighters joined Muammar Qaddafi’s loyalist forces (though some sources cite much larger figures) in the failed defense of his Libyan regime. Many were ex-rebels residing in Libya, while others were recruited from across the Sahel with promises of large bonuses and even Libyan citizenship. Many of the Tuareg fighters are now returning to Mali, Niger and elsewhere in the Sahel, but for some the war may not yet be over; there are reports of up to 500 Tuareg fighters having joined loyalist forces holding the coastal town of Sirte, Qaddafi’s birthplace and a loyalist stronghold (AFP, September 3; September 5). Media in the Malian capital have warned that the “defeated mercenaries” are back from Libya with heavy weapons and lots of money to prepare a new Tuareg rebellion, labeling themselves “combatants for the liberation of Azawad” (Le Pretoire [Bamako], May 9). The Libyan leader has significant support in Mali and other parts of West Africa and a number of pro-Qaddafi demonstrations have been witnessed in Mali since the revolution began in February. The new president of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, has warned of Libya turning into another Somalia, spreading instability throughout the region: "The Libyan crisis amplifies the threats confronting countries in the region. We were already exposed to the fundamentalist threat, to the menace of criminal organizations, drug traffickers, arms traffickers... Today, all these problems have increased. All the more so because weapon depots have been looted in Libya and such weapons have been disseminated throughout the region. Yes, I am very worried: we fear that there may be a breakdown of the Libyan state, as was the case in Somalia, eventually bringing to power religious extremists (Jeune Afrique, July 30)." Tuareg troops escaping from Libya have been observed using 4X4 vehicles to cross into Niger (El Khabar [Algiers], August 29). On September 5, it was reported that “an exceptionally large and rare convoy” of over 200 military vehicles belonging to the southern garrisons of the Libyan Army entered the city of Agadez, the capital of the old Tuareg-controlled Agadez sultanate that controlled trade routes in the region for centuries (Le Monde, September 6; AFP, September 6). Nigerien foreign minister Mohamed Bazoum initially denied the arrival of a 200 vehicle convoy in his country, but admitted that Abdullah Mansur Daw, Libya’s intelligence chief in charge of Tuareg issues, arrived in Niger on September 4 with nine vehicles (Le Monde [Paris], September 8;  AFP, September 5). Daw was accompanied by Agali Alambo (see picture above), the current Tuareg rebel leader who has lived in Libya since 2009 and was cited as a major recruiter of hundreds of former Tuareg rebels in Niger. Alambo later described escaping south through the Murzuq triangle “and then straight down to Agadez” after his party learned the Algerian border was closed and the route into Chad was blocked by Tubu fighters (Reuters, September 11). Daw and Alambo reached Niamey on September 5 with an escort of Nigerien military vehicles. Before the uprising against Gaddafi, Alambo, 47, had made himself a key part of the ousted leader's security structures. Thousands of his fellow Tuaregs were regulars in Gaddafi's army, a way for them to earn a better living than back home in Niger. During his flight, Alambo had to use all his considerable contacts and local knowledge of the desert between Libya and its southern neighbor to make good his escape. An interesting part of this is also that much of southern Libya and its vital oil and water resources remains outside rebel hands and might remain that way for some time if the Tuareg oppose the new rebel regime in Tripoli. It is possible that Qaddafi may threaten the new government from the vast spaces of southern Libya if he can gain the cooperation of the Tuareg. Despite signs of disenchantment with Qaddafi among the Tuareg tribesmen, there is still the lure presented by the vast sums of cash and gold loyalist forces appear to have moved south on behalf of Qaddafi. Though small in numbers, Tuareg mastery of the terrain of the Sahara/Sahel region, ability to survive in forbidding conditions and skills on the battlefield make them a formidable part of any security equation in the region. The direction of Tuareg military commanders and their followers, whether in support of the Qaddafi regime in Libya or in renewed rebellion in Mali and Niger, will play an essential role in determining the security future of the region, as well as the ability of foreign commercial interests to extract the region’s lucrative oil and uranium resources. 


References:
Who are the Tuareg?". Smithsonian Institution.
People of Africa: Tuareg". African Holocaust Society
Brett, Michael; Elizabeth Fentress The Berbers Wiley Blackwell 1997 ISBN 978-0631207672 p. 208
Rasmussen, Susan "The Tent as Cultural Symbol and Field Site: Social and Symbolic Space, "Topos", and Authority in a Tuareg Community", Anthropological Quarterly, Vol 69, 1996.
Frederick Brusberg. "Production and Exchange in the Saharan Air", Current Anthropology, Vol. 26, No. 3. (Jun., 1985), pp. 394–395. Field research on the economics of the Aouderas valley, 1984.
Birley, Anthony. Septimius Severus, the African emperor. (2000), p. 153
Richard Smith. What Happened to the Ancient Libyans? Chasing Sources across the Sahara from Herodotus to Ibn Khaldun. Journal of World History - Volume 14, Number 4, December 2003, pp. 459–500
Algeria and Mali target al-Qaeda. BBC. 6 May 2009. Accessed 2009-06-03.
Kidnappings a ‘message’ from rebels in Sahel. John Thorne, The National (Canada). 1 May 2009
http://news.helium.com/news/14358-tuareg-rebel-leader-ibrahim-ag-bahanga-killed
http://www.jamestown.org/programs/gta/single/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=38408&cHash=38b3678dd09d87310aa39b32d2158b04
Andrew McGregor, “Ibrahim Ag Bahanga: Tuareg Rebel Turns Counterterrorist?” April 2, 2010. See also Terrorism Monitor Briefs, November
http://in.reuters.com/article/2011/09/12/idINIndia-59282720110912

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