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Al Qaeda admits to receiving Libyan Arms after Revolution!

Interesting Article: Desert chief says al-Qaida branch got Libyan arms by ASSOCIATED PRESS / Nouakchott published Thursday, November 10, 2011

A desert chief with al Qaeda's North Africa branch is confirming fears that his group has procured weapons left unguarded after the fall of Gaddafi. The interview published Wednesday did not specify the type or quantity of arms involved. Al-Qaeda's North Africa branch is best known for kidnapping Westerners for ransom and holding them for months in the vast desert region. So who is this desert chief and what arms did they procure?

Mokhtar Belmokhtar, believed to be one of the leaders of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), made the remarks to Mauritanian news agency ANI, which has carried interviews and statements from the group in the past. "We have been one of the main beneficiaries of the revolutions in the Arab world," said Belmokhtar, an Algerian national. Officials and experts have expressed concern that part of Kadhafi's considerable stock of weapons could end up in the hands of AQIM, which has bases in the Sahel and currently holds several foreign hostages. According to several experts, AQIM has acquired surface-to-air missiles which could pose a threat to flights over the region. Belmokhtar also claimed a level of ideological convergence existed between his movement and the Islamist rebels who eventually toppled Gaddafi last month and became Libya's new rulers. We did not fight, alongside them in the field against the Gaddafi forces," he said. "But young Islamists, jihadis... were the ones spearheading the revolution in Libya." Mokhtar Belmokhtar, dubbed the “Uncatchable” by French intelligence in 2002, has operated as a critical facilitator and amir of the Sahara and Sahel regions for Algerian groups including the Groupe Islamique Armée (GIA), the Groupe Salafiste pour la Prédication et le Combat (GSPC), and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). AQIM is thought to have between 600 and 800 fighters spread throughout Algeria and Europe. Belmokhtar became a key channel for communications between core al Qaeda and the Algerian jihadi groups. According to his 2005 interview, Belmokhtar claimed to have initiated correspondence with al-Qaeda while the latter was residing in Sudan in the early 1990s. Belmokhtar goes so far as to say that he was tasked with reaching out to al-Qaeda to generate financial and training support for the burgeoning Algerian jihad in late 1994. Years later, Belmokhtar became the contact for al-Qaeda emissaries to the Algerian arena, starting at least as early as 2002 with Abu Mohamed al-Yemeni (a.k.a. Imad Abdelwahab Ahmed Alwan), a 37-year old Yemeni killed by Algerian troops in the Batna area in September 2002 (Liberté, October 23, 2003). He was reported to have been sent by core al-Qaeda to oversee the development and expansion of the GSPC’s activities. To raise funds for his group, Belmokhtar has reportedly engaged in a range of activities, from smuggling cigarettes to levying protection tax on other traffickers traversing the region. In early April 2009, there were reports that Algerian security services skirmished with an el-Moulathamine unit that included Belmokhtar. The cadre were said to have been entering Algeria from Libya on their way to an arms purchase with a Nigerien trafficker named “al-Hadj”. While relations between Belmokhtar and the mainstream AQIM leadership appear frayed, reports of his ongoing efforts to supply elements in the north with weapons and material as well as his sustained contacts with Abdelhamid Abou Zaid Essoufi and Yahia Djouadi indicate Belmokhtar remains connected with AQIM’s ongoing operations. Belmokhtar is committed to maintaining his current capacity in the Sahara and Sahel regions. As his Tuareg tribal connections appear to remain warm and he reportedly maintains allies in the Malian government, Belmokhtar appears to have successfully woven himself into the fabric of the region.



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