Original source: http://www.maliweb.net/news/insecurite/2012/07/19/article,80992.html
(Translated from French to English by Thomas den Hollander)
July 19, 2012 Topic: Insecurity, northern Mali
They are heavily armed and well trained to deal with any military assault.
The Sahel becomes a quagmire. A study by the American security research centre, AGWoold, the number of terrorist activating the Sahel has increased 20 times between 2010 and 2012.
According to this study, 300 to 500 in 2010, it rose to more than 6,000 terrorists, equipped and trained in 2012. A boon for the troops of Al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb, which wants to establish theological principalities in the region. But how are terrorists recruited in this particular region in northern Mali? “We are many Africans who came from everywhere to join the mujahedeen from Gao,” says a young Ivorian. This young man even has changed his name and is now called
Ahmed El Guédir. It is one of hundreds of recruits in the northern city of Mali controlled by radical Islamists.
The young West Africans landed armed in Gao from Gourma, a province in eastern Burkina Faso, Mali’s neighbor but also from Senegal. According to the French news agency AFP, within two days, more than 200 Africans, with an average age of 16, were recruited by the Movement for the uniqueness of Jihad in West Africa (Mujao). New recruits are grouped in two camps in the city and have to undergo military and religious training, said one of the terrorist leaders in the region. Hundreds of Boko Haram fighters, a radical Islamist group responsible for numerous attacks in Nigeria, are now present in northern Mali alongside the Islamists, according to Bilal Hassan, a leader of Mujao in Gao. “Here there are Malians, Somalis, Ivorian, Senegalese, Ghanaians, Gambians, Mauritanians, Algerians, Guineans, Nigerians, there are all Muslims here,” said he to the AFP, adding that for a Muslim, there is no nationality or boundary. A native of Mali’s neighbor Niger, Hisham Bilal was the first black man to lead a katiba, a fighters brigade, in northern Mali. “There will be other blacks (at the head of katiba). The world is the same for black Muslims, white or other colors”, he said.
“The President of Niger (Mahamadou Issoufou) says he will attack us. God only knows. 40% of our workforce are Nigerians. Jihad, God willing, we will take it quickly in Niger”, he threatens again.
Mr. Issoufou expressed support for military intervention in northern Mali, envisaged by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), to drive out the Islamists.
Bilal Hicham removes this risk by running: “What force is stronger than God? Let them come and bomb us. ” “We are all Muslims, at least over 90% in the sub-region (West Africa). We can talk together to find a solution. But if someone decides to use force, then the strength of God will be stronger”, he said. For him, Jihad must be everywhere in West Africa. He says they are ready to plant bombs in West African countries “if necessary”.
Ansar Eddine (Defenders of Islam)and Mujao, both allied with al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), controlled the three administrative regions of northern Mali, Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu at the end of March, after ousting the secular Tuareg rebels secessionist.
They have begun to impose Sharia in Timbuktu and destroyed mausoleums of Muslim saints, provoking outrage in Mali and abroad. For their part, people feel abandoned by Gao and cope as best they could with the presence of radical Islamists in their territory.
Apart from banks and some buildings destroyed during the capture of the city in late March and the legacy of fighting in June near the Governor’s Palace, Gao looks almost normal, except that there isn’t a single bar or hotel because they are all closed by Islamists.