Photo: Google Maps
Things around Mali have been moving very quickly since the French began an offensive to root out jihadists in the country’s north, and today the conflict went international.Dozens of al-Qaeda-linked militants killed two foreigners and are holding about 150 Algerians and 41 foreigners hostage at the In Amenas gas field in eastern Algeria.
U.S. officials told CNN that they believe the attack originated in Libya.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has long been active in Algeria, though it has never attacked the country’s oil and gas facilities.
The raid was reportedly led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a veteran Saharan jihadist and smuggling kingpin.
Sky News notes that intelligence experts believe Belmokhtar, a notorious Algerian who lost an eye fighting in Afghanistan in the 1990s, was one of the first AQIM leaders to realise that Islamist fighters could use northern Mali — along with parts of Algeria, Mauritania and Niger — as a safe zone for their operations.
Photo: Le Monde
So it seems that now AQIM has allied with local jihadist groups Ansar Dine and MUJWA, the Islamists are taking advantage of their uncanny knowledge of terrain to commit what Alex Spillius of The Telegraph describes as “the most spectacular act the region has seen in two decades of terrorism.”
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