MACP (Washington, DC, Oct. 23, 2012) — Agence France Press has reported that “hundreds of jihadist fighters poured into Mali over the weekend” to reinforce the al-Qaeda-linked extremists who seized control of northern Mali seven months ago. The news comes as regional leaders prepare a plan requested by the UN Security Council for military action to take back northern Mali and prevent it from becoming a haven for terrorists in the region.
“They are coming from the [Polisario-run] camps of Tindouf in Algeria, from Senegal, from Ivory Coast, from everywhere,” said Habib Ould Issouf, a leader for the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), an offshoot of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), that controls the northern Mali city, Gao.
AFP said the influx was confirmed Sunday by Malian security officials and residents in Gao and Timbuktu. A Gao resident reported 10 pick-up trucks packed with armed fighters arriving at MUJAO’s main office. In Timbuktu, another resident said “more than 150 Sudanese Islamists arrived in 48 hours.”
The news corroborates an October 8 editorial by the Paris-based magazine Jeune Afrique. Citing a study shared by European and Maghreb intelligence sources, the editorial said that hundreds of new recruits are joining northern Mali extremist groups from the Polisario-run refugee camps near Tindouf, Algeria and elsewhere in the region, and have been paid 4,000 Euro hiring bonuses.
“Multiple reports warn that the dismal conditions in the Polisario-run refugee camps make them fertile ground for terrorist recruiting,” said Jordan Paul, Executive Director, Moroccan American Center for Policy. “These camps are a clear danger to refugees the Polisario has forced to live there, to aid-workers targeted by kidnappers, and now increasingly to regional security. After 36 years, it’s time the refugees be given the right to leave if they want.”