The Malian/Algerian Connection
Photo: REUTERS/Belmokhtar Brigade
There are as-yet unexplained statements made public by Algeria, claiming that two of the Islamists belonging to the al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb breakaway group The Masked Brigade, were Canadians. It has not been made clear exactly what prompted Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal to claim that two of the attackers were Canadian.
The names have not been released, although the Algerians made reference to one of them as "Chedad", claiming he had co-ordinated the operation. It seems that identification was made by assessing the North American quality of the English the two spoke, but no hard evidence though some claim identifying documents were found on the bodies.
The group's leader, Mokhtar Belmokhtar is himself Algerian. He claims his AQIM splinter group attacked in revenge, to punish the country for allowing French planes to fly over into Mali. And it will be a far-reaching punishment, with questions about the level of security in Algeria, leading foreign investors to think again about entering the country. Already a number of foreign companies have pulled their workers out.
A threat to the stability and functioning of the country's gas and oil extraction industries upon which so much of Algeria's income depends is not good news for the country. It has had a hands-off attitude to combatting the threat of Islamism as long as attacks took place in other countries. Now, it is hoped that Algeria will add its troops to the African contingent assenting to taking responsibility for fighting alongside the French in Mali.
Algerian forces are still searching the desert for the five foreign workers unaccounted for during the four-day siege. They may have been abducted. They may have made an escape during the siege, and, it is theorized, become lost in the vast desert surrounding the oilfield. The mangled, unidentifiable bodies of some of the dead discovered in the complex by Algerian troops may yet yield another mystery.
Through the varied makeup of the nationality of the Islamists it seems clear to authorities that fighters aligned with al-Qaeda, from across Africa have converged on the region. Just as occurred in Iraq and in Afghanistan, and now in Syria. As al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb ensconces itself with a fair degree of impunity within a huge swathe of desert, fairly immune to being found and routed.
With the intention of permanently installing themselves and gradually increasing their territory. In moving from northern Mali so precipitously after having settled in Timbuktou and surrounding towns, to Diabaly and other smaller towns, alerting the French to the seeming imminence of their move on the capital Bamako, they finally invited foreign confrontation.
Limited as it is, with other Western countries offering feeble, but required heavy-lifting and transport of weapons and vehicles. Leaving France to continue exhorting local responsibility by those African countries geographically adjacent Mali to help stop the installation of an unstoppable Islamist spread determined to gain the foothold it requires to initiate its domination of the entire area.