Libya: al-Qaeda 'receive looted Libyan weapons'
The Libyan bombing campaign has allowed terrorist groups free access to some of Col Muammar Gaddafi's arms dumps and an Algerian official said that monitored shipments had made their way from Libya to al-Qaeda strongholds in the Sahara.
Eight Toyota pickup trucks crossed into Chad, across Niger and into northern Mali from desert armouries in eastern Libya. Algeria warned that al-Qaeda's North African wing, al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb (AQIM), had seized shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles in Libya.
Intelligence reports said Russian-made anti-tank rocket-propelled grenades, Kalashnikov heavy machine guns, Kalashnikov rifles, explosives and ammunition were stacked on the pickups.
"A convoy of eight Toyotas full of weapons travelled a few days ago through Chad and Niger and reached northern Mali," the official said.
"We know that this is not the first convoy and that it is still ongoing. Several military barracks have been pillaged in this region [eastern Libya] with their arsenals and weapons stores and the elements of AQIM who were present could not have failed to profit from this opportunity."
Col Gaddafi has justified the crackdown on the uprising against his regime as a fight against al-Qaeda.
An internet message from al-Qaeda on Monday said that Nato was using the operation to defend Libya's citizens to attack its presence. Admiral James Stavridis, Nato's supreme allied commander for Europe, warned last week that "flickers" of an al-Qaeda presence in Libya were being closely followed by the alliance. "AQIM is taking advantage by acquiring the most sophisticated weapons," he said.
Algeria has been fighting a nearly two-decade insurgency by Islamist militants who in the past few years have been operating under the banner of al-Qaeda. Algeria's security forces also monitor al-Qaeda's activities outside its borders.
Col Gaddafi has placed arms caches throughout Libya. A strike on an arsenal in Sebha last week resulted in three days of secondary explosions and damage to half the houses in the town.
Locals said large stocks of weapons at the military base could still be salvaged.
"AQIM has maintained excellent relations with smugglers who used to cross Libya from all directions without the slightest difficulty," the Algerian official said.
Libyan officials have compiled videos of their fighters being beheaded and killed by jihadist fighters to justify their claims that the opposition Interm Transitional National Council is a front for al-Qaeda. Tripoli maintains the West will come to regret military action.
[Source: By Damien McElroy, The Telegraph, London, 04Apr11]
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