Fri, Feb 17, 2012 | By Raby Ould Idoumou for Magharebia in Nouakchott
The security vacuum in northern Mali endangers the entire Sahel region, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz warns.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is determined to exploit Mali’s security fragility to stage deadly attacks against Sahel states, Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz told Le Monde in an interview dated February 10th.
The north of Mali has been locked in intense fighting between Malian troops and Touareg rebels for over a month. The conflict is a “great concern” and “the outbreak of war creates problems for the entire region”, Ould Abdel Aziz told the French newspaper.
There are two movements pitted against the Malian government, the president specified, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and Iyad Ag Ghali, who “has forged alliances with terrorist groups”.
“The north of Mali is an area left behind and almost free for terrorism. That’s where they stay and it is from there that the terrorist acts and gets paid ransoms that increase,” he added. “These terrorists are on a desert strip of 300 km and they source fuel and food from three or four known cities including Timbuktu and Gao.”
While AQIM numbers do not exceed 300 terrorists, the president asserted, only concerted efforts can help stave off the threat.
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