Al Qaeda threatens more war crimes in response to French help of Mali
An al-Qaeda-affiliated group is accusing France of endangering the lives of a half-dozen French hostages by helping to organize a military intervention in Mali instead of negotiating for the hostages’ release.
The accusation, in an online video, came from Abdel Hamid Abu Zeid, a battle-hardened Algerian who leads the most active of three squads of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the terrorist group’s affiliate in the Sahel region of northern Africa. Experts said the video was recorded Tuesday and put online by a Mauritanian Internet site, Sahara Medias, that is a frequent conduit for AQIM communications.
Abu Zeid’s claim appeared designed to stir French public opinion against President Francois Hollande’s government, which insists it is doing all it can to free the hostages but says it must act in secret, through clandestine intermediaries, if it is to be effective.
The video sought to focus attention on Hollande’s determination to drive AQIM guerrillas and their allies from a vast sanctuary in northern Mali, following the passage last week by the U.N. Security Council of a French-sponsored resolution authorizing military intervention in northern Mali by a 3,300-strong force of soldiers from the Economic Community of West African States. The soldiers are to be trained and commanded by French officers. A French general with experience in Africa and Bosnia, Francois Lecointre, has been named to command the mission.
Abu Zeid’s group kidnapped four French technicians at a uranium mining center in northern Niger in September 2010. A year later, it abducted a pair of French geologists in Mali. “The hostages are alive, for the time being,” Abu Zeid said in the video.
The French Foreign Ministry did not respond directly to Abu Zeid’s declaration but vowed that the government would pursue its efforts to free the hostages. “French authorities continue to demand that our countrymen held hostage in the Sahel be released safe and sound, and they are fully mobilized to achieve that result,” said a ministry spokesman, Vincent Floreani.
About 400 European Union soldiers have been assigned, beginning next month, to train a 3,000-strong Malian army force that would be capable of redeployment to restore government authority in the stretches of northern Mali that have fallen under the control of AQIM forces.
Mali’s army was driven from the country’s northern region in March by Tuareg rebels allied with AQIM, who had long sought to break away from central government control. The area’s Tuareg inhabitants differ ethnically from the black Africans in the south. The Tuareg offensive met little real opposition, in part because, at the time, senior Malian army officers were in disarray because of an inconclusive military coup in Bamako, the capital.
...Mali is another example of how Obama prematurely proclaimed al Qaeda was on the run. The loss of Mali to al Qaeda is at least an indirect result of Obama's Libya policy of leading from behind. There was no effort to secure Qaddafi's arms and munition depots during the fighting in Libya and as a result thousands of weapons fell into the hands of Al Qaeda in North Africa and they used them to overthrow the Mali government that had been trying to resist al Qaeda's drug trade in the region.