WikiLeaks: President of Mali Links Drug Trafficking to Terrorism
When an unidentified plane crashed into the desert in northern Mali in November 2009, it was immediately suspected of smuggling cocaine from Latin America. The west African route to the lucrative European markets had been growing in popularity for some time following successful anti-smuggling operations in the Caribbean.
But what was truly shocking about the mysterious unmarked, burned-out aircraft nearly 10 miles from a makeshift airstrip, was its size. The Boeing 727-200 was big enough to carry 10 tonnes of the drug. It was obvious the Colombian cartels were now plying the west African route on an industrial scale.
For the last two years the US and British governments have grown increasingly worried about this new front in the “war on drugs” and how African governments are struggling against corrupt officials and a lack of resources to respond, according to cables released last night from US embassies across west Africa.
They show in vivid detail how the coastal states and their inland neighbours have come close to being overwhelmed by the booming trade, while the prospect of al-Qaida and Hezbollah exploiting the region’s UN-estimated $1.3bn (£800m)-a-year drug trade to fund terror, looms on the horizon.
Document 1: The President of Mali, Amadou Toumani Touré, “directly linked revenues from drug trafficking to terrorism” in a December 2009 meeting with General William “Kip” Ward, head of the US military’s Africa command.
Document 2: The mystery of where the plane’s cargo went is further deepened by the revelation in a secret cable from February this year that Mali’s civil aviation authority was prevented from investigating the crash until more than three weeks later and neither were the drug unit of Mali’s investigative police allowed to make inquiries.
Document 3: The cocaine trafficking across northern Mali also risks armed conflict, one cable from the Bamako embassy in February warns. It details a reprisal kidnapping of a tribal chief following an ambush on a drug caravan in the Kidal region in January.
Read related article “US fears over west African cocaine route” in the Guardian here.
Tuesday, 01 December 2009, 16:39
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 BAMAKO 000776
EO 12958 DECL: 11/30/2019
TAGS ASEC, ML, PGOV, PINR, PREL, PTER
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR AND GENERAL WARD MEET WITH MALIAN
PRESIDENT AMADOU TOUMANI TOURE
REF: A. A. BAMAKO 754 B. B. 2008 BAMAKO 217
Classified By: Ambassador Gillian Milovanovic, Embassy Bamako, for reas ons 1.4 (b) (d).
1. (S) On November 27 the Ambassador and Commander of the U.S. Africa Command, General William E. (“Kip”) Ward, met with Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure (ATT) to discuss security in Northern Mali. ATT reiterated his commitment to take action against Al Q’Aida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb, now possibly in January. General Ward encouraged the President to follow through with convening the Bamako Summit. ATT indicated he plans to travel to Algiers to meet with Algerian President Bouteflika to set the date , demonstrate his commitment and gain his support. ATT and General Ward agreed that, with or without regional cooperation, Mali has no choice but to move forward in confronting terrorist and criminal elements in the North.
THANKS FOR SUPPORT WITH HARD LANDING
2. (S) On November 27 the Ambassador and U.S. Africa Command General William E. (“Kip”) Ward met with Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure (ATT). The Ambassador and General Ward were accompanied by Foreign Policy Advisor Dr. Raymond L. Brown and AFRICOM Public Affairs Director Colonel Frank Childress. ATT was accompanied by Minister of Defense Natie Pleah, Secretary General to the PresidencyDiango Cissoko, and Chief of Defense Poudiougou. General Ward thanked the President for Mali’s support in the recent hard landing of a plane carrying U.S. military personnel approximately 65 miles outside of Bamako. ATT reiterated ref A comments that it was only natural Mali should help, since after all he knew the United States was coming to help Mali.
PROGRESS AND CONCERNS IN NORTHERN MALI 3. (S) ATT said that since General Ward’s last visit (ref B) the Tuareg rebellion had been brought to an end. Even the head of the most recent rebellion has sent a message of peace, and ten or so of the former rebels, “since they like to fight so much” are being sent off to support the African Union Mission in Somalia (see IIR 6 958 0021 10). ATT said he had concerns about the Salafists, another term for Al Q’Aida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). While the Salafists have had difficulty getting their message across to a generally reluctant population, they have had some success in enlisting disaffected youth to their ranks. He said the Malian Army is at a turning point, with the older generation in the military giving way to a younger, less experienced one. In this regard, he thanked General Ward for the training the United States is providing to the recently created Echelons Tactiques Inter-Arme (ETIAs).
NEED FOR MORE REGIONAL COOPERATION
4. (S) ATT lamented that regional cooperation appears to be stalled. Mauritanian President Aziz is a soldier who understands the situation. He has put the recent political troubles behind him and is working well with Mali. Niger has always been a good partner. Although the country has its own Tuareg rebellion problem and is focused on a domestic political crisis, Niger continues to work well together with Mali. Military cooperation with Algeria is the problem. ATT said the Algerians think we do not do anything, and they are not totally wrong, but we need Algeria’s help in terms of air support. It is not just a matter of destroying a couple of AQIM bases, we have to be able to hold the territory. The longer the situation drags on, the stronger the Salafists will get.
5. (S) ATT directly linked revenues from drug trafficking to terrorism. He said the Boeing 727 which had been set fire near Tarkint, in Northern Mali after it got stuck in the sand on or about October 30 may have been carrying drugs. Mali is cooperating with friendly countries to try to gain information about the nature of the flight and has lodged complaints about the violation of its air space with Interpol and with the UN Office of Drugs and Crime. ATT said security will be easier to achieve with three or four countries
BAMAKO 00000776 002 OF 003
working together rather than alone. If the other countries cannot agree, then of course we have to do it ourselves, he said.
UNITED STATES COMMITTED TO HELP
6. (S) General Ward thanked the President for catching him up on the situation. He said he is happy to hear of the President’s continued commitment to fighting terrorism. If the government of Mali is unable to gain better control over under-governed territory, it will continue to give free reign to arms and drug traffickers and terrorists, frustrating legitimate development efforts. General Ward said that, with Ambassador Milovanovic, we are paying close attention to how we can increase the capacity of the Malian Army to eliminate the threat posed. The United States is looking to ensure a continuum of training and maintenance capacity building. Keeping trained units together and using the equipment provided in a sustainable manner will help Mali achieve its goals.
7. (S) General Ward said he shares ATT’s analysis that the bad guys do not respect borders and that Mali needs regional cooperation. Having just come from Algeria, General Ward said he had made the same point to Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, as well as to the Algerian Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense, and to the Chief of Defense: all agreed to the need for regional cooperation. General Ward said he would be looking for signs of increased cooperation on the ground.
8. (S) The USG supports the implementation and follow-on to the meeting of Chiefs of Defense in Tamanrassett, Algeria as well as the heads of state meeting in Bamako. General Ward said he hopes the joint operations center discussed in Tamanrassett will become a reality soon, and will be able to support operations in the North of Mali. Once the operations center becomes a reality, the USG stands ready to assist with training and equipment if asked, as well as providing transparent updates on U.S. security engagement with regional partners. General Ward said he was very impressed by ATT’s statement that, whether or not the neighbors get involved in a constructive manner, he would be taking responsibility for security in the North. “When that step is taken, no one will be able to say you have not done anything.”
MOVING FORWARD TOGETHER
9. (S) The President said he shares General Ward’s views. He noted the frank and excellent working relationship he has with Ambassador Milovanovic, noting wryly that he is sometimes embarrassed by, but always appreciates, her directness. Returning to security questions, he described his childhood memory of “the dance of death” from the village in which he grew up: If you dance too far ahead, you die; if you dance too far behind, you die; if you do not dance at all, you die. That is the way it is in the fight against the Salafists, he said. We have no choice but to move ahead together.
10. (S) Chief of Defense General Gabriel Poudiougou mentioned that the Algerian Special Forces Commander had just left Bamako November 26 after a two day visit in which he worked with his Malian counterparts to establish a transmission network and a better cooperative working arrangement on the ground. Colonel Amadou Gueye, in charge of military cooperation at the MOD, said that a mixed committee for joint military cooperation has been set up, and the fourth meeting is scheduled for December 15 in Tessalit, Mali. It is to be attended by an Algerian General. ATT said he is planning a trip to Algiers to ask Bouteflika for air support, shortly after the Tessalit meeting.
ATT THOUGHTS ON ALGERIA
11. (S) ATT then asked the Ambassador and General Ward if he could speak to them privately. In that meeting, he mentioned that he had gone to see Libyan leader Muammar al-Qadhafi and, contrary to the view of some, he is the most interested of all in a head of state summit in Bamako. ATT said that, after Tabaski (November 28), he will be going to see President Bouteflika and sending Malian Foreign Minister
BAMAKO 00000776 003 OF 003
Moctar Ouane to the other countries to find a date for the summit.
12. (S) ATT said he believes Bouteflika and the Algerian leadership genuinely want to cooperate, although they have real doubts about Mali’s resolve. His visit is intended inter alia to dispel these doubts. ATT said he thinks Algeria’s intelligence services and army are holding up cooperation, and believes the Algerian army is infiltrated with Salafists. He is nevertheless pleased with the improved cooperation with Algeria, and said a lot is riding on concrete outcomes of the December 15 meeting in Tessalit. He wants the heads of state summit to take place first, and then to be prepared to start operations within a week or so. This implies that the cooperation already has to be working, in advance of the summit.
13. (S) Regarding the French hostage kidnapped in Menaka on November 26, ATT said he had already been delivered to the Salafists. He said he thinks the Salafists knew Mali was determined to act against them and by taking a hostage, in particular a French one, on Malian soil, they were clearly moving to a new level of action. By doing so, they were trying to complicate things for the government of Mali and make it hard for them to start operations. ATT assured that Mali will act, “hostage or no hostage”.
14. (S) ATT noted that the choice of hostage makes little sense. He is “broke”, is married to a Tuareg woman, and is co-owner of a hotel with another Tuareg. He is fully integrated into Tuareg society. ATT speculated that it could be a criminal, personal, or business-related matter which caused him to be taken hostage in the first place, in addition to the element that the kidnapping was intended to forestall GOM action against the Salafists. The Ambassador suggested perhaps he was the only available victim at the time. ATT said Mali had a timeline to start action in January. Perhaps, he said, rather than forestalling Mali, the kidnapping will move us to take action earlier than the original timeline.
15. (S) General Ward said the United States will continue to support Mali’s efforts with training and equipment. He pledged to follow up with the Algerians, telling them how important the next delegation meeting is, and conveying ATT’s commitment.
16. (U) General Ward cleared this message.
Monday, 01 February 2010, 11:59
S E C R E T BAMAKO 000054
EO 12958 DECL: 01/13/2019
TAGS KCRM, PGOV, PINS, SNAR, ML
SUBJECT: NEW INFORMATION ON CRASHED DRUG PLANE
Classified By: Political Counselor Peter Newman, Embassy Bamako, for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
1. (S) On January 12, [name redacted], provided PolCouns with copies of documents from the civil aviation authorities of Saudi Arabia and Guinea-Bissau he believed pertained to the Boeing 727 that crashed on take-off near the town of Tarkint in Northern Mali at the beginning of November 2009. The first document is an Aircraft Air Worthiness Certificate issued by the Saudi Arabian General Authority of Civil Aviation. The document identifies the aircraft as a Boeing B727-200 categorized as a transport aircraft with the registration mark HZ-SNE. The certificate is dated November 12, 2008 and has an expiration date of March 11, 2009.
2. (S) The second through fifth documents are letters in the name of the Civil Aviation Agency in Guinea-Bissau (AACGB). One letter is addressed to Mr. Ibrahima Gueye, identified as the Administrator of “Africa Air Assistance.” A Google search Post conducted identified Africa Air Assistance as a Dakar, Senegal-based subsidiary of Malaga, Spain-based West African Aviation, an agent and distributor &for major worldwide aviation maintenance and security companies.8 The letter informs Mr. Gueye that the Boeing B727-200F under Guinea-Bissau registration J5-GCU is no longer considered airworthy, and requests information concerning the location of the identified aircraft within 24 hours. The letter is dated November 5, 2009. On the same date, AACGB sent two letters to its counterpart civil aviation authorities in Nigeria and Venezuela. AACGB stated that it had information that the aircraft J5-GCU was operating under a leasing agreement in Venezuela with Nigerian crews. The letters requested that the Nigerian and Venezuelan civil aviation authorities ground the 727 should the opportunity arise. The final letter is from AACGB to the Malian National Civil Aviation Authority (ANAC) and is dated December 1, 2009. In this letter, AACGB informs ANAC that it has learned aircraft J5-GCU was operating flights from Colombia to Mali. AACGB requests ANAC’s assistance in grounding the aircraft due to the expired airworthiness certification.
3. (S) In a meeting with PolOff on November 25, the Deputy Director of ANAC, Issa Saley Maiga, stated that notwithstanding statutory jurisdiction for investigating aviation accidents, his agency was not given authority to investigate the incident until November 24, three to four weeks after the event. He said that until late November, responsibility for investigating the crash of the “drug plane” ) as it has been called in the press ) was placed solely with the DGSE. On December 17, Deputy Regional Representative of the United Nations Office Against Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Cyriaque Sobtafo explained that because the plane crash occurred in northern Mali, it was considered exclusively a matter for DGSE, and that not even the Drug Brigade of the Malian Judiciary Investigation Police was allowed to make inquiries. Sobtafo added that the Malian government had not shared any information from its investigation with UNODC.
Monday, 01 February 2010, 11:22
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 BAMAKO 000052
EO 12958 DECL: 01/29/2020
TAGS PTER, KCRM, PINS, PGOV, ML
SUBJECT: KIDNAPPING AND LIBERATION OF KOUNTA LEADER
ILLUMINATES POLITICAL FISSURES IN NORTH
Classified By: Political Counselor Peter Newman for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)
1. (S) Summary: In the early morning of Jan 22, Kounta traditional chief and Mayor of Anafis Baba ould Sidi Elmoctar was kidnapped from his residence in Anafis in theKidal region. POL sources concur that Telemsi Arab smugglers kidnapped the octogenarian leader as a reprisal for an ambush ould Sidi Elmoctar’s son led against a joint Telemsi/Imghad drug smuggling caravan. The Kounta are one of the traditionally important tribes of northern Mali. His kidnapping had the possibility of escalating a simmering conflict over smuggling routes to open warfare between the Telemsi and Imghad communities on one side and the Kounta and Ifoghas on the other. The GOM sent a delegation to negotiate and successfully secured ould Sidi ElMoctar’s release, avoiding a broader conflict for the time being. End summary.
2. (S) On Friday, Jan 22 before dawn, Telemsi Arab and Imghad Tuareg smugglers kidnapped octogenarian and diabetic Kounta traditional chief Baba ould Sidi Elmoctar from his residence. The Malian press has characterized this incident as a settling of scores between rival drug smugglers. Both POL contacts and the Malian press reported an ambush of a drug caravan in Kidal region during the week of Jan 10-16. The smugglers reportedly were Telemsi Arabs and Imghad Tuaregs. The group that ambushed the caravan was reportedly led by the son of ould Sidi Elmoctar and was comprised of Kounta Arab and Ifoghas Tuareg fighters. POL contacts have said the caravan was carrying five truck-mountable automatic weapons and cocaine. Estimates of the size of the cargo range wildly from several kilograms to several tons of cocaine.
3. (S) Northern Malian communities generally viewed the kidnapping of ould Sidi Elmoctar as disrespectful and dangerous to the relative calm experienced in northern Mali at present. One contact commented this is the first time in almost twenty years such a prominent tribal leader has been kidnapped. The last incident was in 1993, when now Malian Army Colonel Elhedji ag Gamou kidnapped Attaher ag Intallah, the overall chief of the Ifoghas Tuareg clan of Kidal. PolFSN, who is a Tuareg from Kidal, commented that the two events cannot be equated in severity because the context is totally different. Attaher ag Intallah was kidnapped during a period of open warfare in the north, while the kidnapping of ould Sidi Elmoctar was a greater affront as it occured during ostensibly a time of peace, ongoing smuggling and political conflicts notwithstanding.
4. (S) On Monday, Jan 25, the GOM sent a delegation comprised of Minister of Culture Mohamed Elmoctar, Malian Army Colonel Abderhamane ould Meydou, Tarkint Mayor Baba ould Choueck, and Malian Gendarmerie Colonel Guichma to negotiate the release of ould Sidi Elmoctar. All members are Telemsi Arabs except Guichma, who is Songhai. A former DGSE (Malian intelligence agency) director told PolCouns he believed the mission was so promptly dispatched because the risks of broader conflict were high as a result of the kidnapping. On Jan 27, the kidnappers released ould Sidi Elmoctar in Gao, after two days of successful negotiations and strong social pressure opposing the kidnapping.
5. (S) Although the consensus opinion is the kidnapping was a reprisal for an ambush and theft of contraband, POL contacts believe this event is indicative of a trend toward greater inter-tribal conflict in northern Mali, and thus, is of greater import. Two POL contacts specifically commented that northern Mali is quickly splitting into two political camps: one allied with the Telemsi Arab and Imghad Tuareg communities of Gao Region, and the other allied with the Kounta Arab and Ifoghas Tuareg communities of Kidal Region. These two camps are now formalizing their political existence as the Kounta/Ifoghas led “Reseau de Plaidoyer” and the Telemsi/Imghad “Forces du Changement.”
6. (S) By way of background, the Kounta and Ifoghas have been the traditional leaders of the Tuareg and Arab communities of northern Mali for the past century and a half. The Telemsi and Imghad have been under their tutelage. Part of the current friction arises from the arrival of a form of democracy to northern Mali in recent years, with allegations arising that the Telemsi, among other groups that have
BAMAKO 00000052 002 OF 002
traditionally been smugglers/traders, are using their wealth to buy elections (particularly in the April 2009 communal elections) and are using the means of the state to usurp traditional authority in northern Mali (see reftel). If this conflict were to leave the confines of proxy battles via smuggling and elections, and enter the realm of outright warfare, it would not be the first instance: the Telemsi and Kounta communities engaged in a protracted conflict in the early-2000s. BARLERIN