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Thursday, January 12, 2012

A new crisis in the Sahel

Algerian forces cross into Mali as the possibility of another Tuareg rebellion looms over the region.

London, UK - There is a new crisis in the Sahel: On December 20, Algerian army forces crossed into Mali. The sequence of events leading up to this extraordinary development began with a new spate of hostage-taking in the Sahel. On November 23, two Frenchmen were kidnapped from their hotel in Hombori, a small town in eastern Mali on the road from Mopti to Gao. The next day, four European tourists were seized from a restaurant in Timbuktu. One of them, a German who resisted, was shot dead.

Most western intelligence agencies and the media immediately attributed the attacks to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Indeed, on December 8, the Nouakchott News Agency (ANI) in Mauritania and the AFP office in Rabat received communiqués in which AQIM claimed responsibility for the kidnappings.

But these communiqués were probably false: The evidence pointed in other directions. Tamashek, the Tuareg language, had been heard spoken by the Hombori abductors, and the initial local rumours suggested that the abductors were Tuareg back from Libya, motivated by their desire for revenge against France and NATO for toppling Gaddafi. Read More