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{UAH} Kidnapping and drug trafficking – the reality of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)

Kidnapping and drug trafficking – the reality of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) have wrecked havoc across western Africa, pillaging everything in its wake

Kidnapping and drug trafficking – the reality of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) Preview

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) operates across the porous desert borders of Western Africa. In March this year, it merged several terror groups in the region to create a new alliance called Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen. This includes the notorious Ansar al-Dine which in 2012 stormed the ancient Malian city of Timbuktu leaving a trail of incalculable destruction in its wake. Shrines were demolished and manuscripts dating back to the golden age of Islam were burnt. The leader of the group that committed these acts – Iyad ag Ghali of Asar al-Dine – will lead the new alliance.

Timbuktu illustrated Al Qaeda's callous attitude to rape. Twenty-year-old Azahara Abdou Maiga was sexually assaulted by five Ansar al-Dine men during the occupation of the city. "I did not cry out," she explained, "I just cried inside of me." This young woman had been caught with pictures of pop stars including Celine Dion on her mobile phone and was accused of being insufficiently covered up. That was the justification for repeated rape.

Kidnapping has been the main source of income for AQIM to fund its operations across west Africa. The group has seized construction workers, humanitarian workers and tourists. This has damaged economies desperate to grow as well as resulting in untold misery and even death for those kidnapped. The threat of abduction has led to festivals being cancelled and the once famous Paris-Dakar Rally motor racing event now takes place in South America.

AQIM has also facilitated the flow of cocaine from South America through to Europe on the questionable grounds that it harms the 'kuffar', non-believers, so that is admissible. The reality is that tribal warlords have long taken a cut of the vast profits from narcotics and now AQIM have muscled in on this criminal trade. Effectively they tax the cocaine and other drugs as they move through territory under their control.

AQIM has its roots in the bloody civil war in Algeria in the 1990s. As it lost support in that country, its operations moved southwards into Mali, Niger and Mauritania. With the fortunes of Daesh waning, there is a threat that AQIM will begin to mop up some disaffected youth. They will make similar promises about building an Islamic caliphate. But instead, these young people will find themselves involved in hostage taking and drug trafficking to Europe, the mainstays of AQIM's finances.

Image: Huffington Post


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