By Heba Girgis
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa
BAMAKO, Mali—Just yesterday, on December 19, 2012, the Malian President said that the Islamist group struggling to take control of the region is made up of mostly Malian citizens and not foreigner. The group has carried out public executions and amputations in the northern regions of the country. This is the first time that the country’s leader has acknowledged that the group, Ansar Dine, is not made up of foreign citizens.
The government previously maintained that the group was made up of militants from Al-Qaida’s North Africa branch along with other foreigners who had moved to the region from Libya. On Wednesday, however, the President, Dioncounda Traore, noted that Ansar Dine fighters “are mainly made up of our fellow countrymen.”
Ansar Dine, or “Defenders of the Faith,” continues to control regions of Mali, including the towns of Kidal and Timbuktu in Northern Mali. The group has decided to impose a strict form of Islamic Sharia law in the regions under their control.
John Guandolo, former FBI counterterrorism officer and terrorism and security analyst, said that Ansar Dine’s Sharia movement confirms a dangerous trend for the region. He also noted that, “Northern Mali is a major transit area for all kinds of criminals, terrorists, and other operatives of all kinds.”
It also turns out that the cousin of Ansar Dine’s leader is one of the people in charge of an AQIM (Al-Qaida in Islamic Maghreb) brigade in Kidal. The Islamic group emerged as a dominant group in Mali after a military coup in the country’s old capital creating a power vacuum. In recent weeks, as reported, the leaders of the group made efforts to make concessions—including distancing themselves from terrorist activities—however many analysts questioned their sincerity.
Moran Roach, analyst for the Heritage Foundation Africa, further confirmed that Northern Mali is quickly becoming a haven for terrorist groups. “Ansar is not limited to eastern Libya, but if present throughout North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula,” Roach said. Roach also continued saying, “Ansar has reportedly put out a hit list in Egypt. The Coptic pope was reportedly on it. Ansar claimed responsibility for the attack on the U.S. facility in Benghazi and is certainly a threat to U.S. security and interests in the region.”
Because of the vast empty space that northern Mali encompasses, the region provides any group a safe haven with hundreds of square miles of open territory.
For further information, please see:
ABC News – Mali Leader Acknowledges Extremists Not Foreigners – 19 December 2012
Fox News – Mali President Acknowledges that Extremist Group Ansar Dine Made up of Mostly Malians – 19 December 2012
Long War Journal – Ansar Al Sharia in Mali – 18 December 2012
WND World – Benghazi Terrorists Setting Up Shop in Mali – 18 December 2012