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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mokhtar Belmokhtar

The claimed assassination of Michel Germaneau indicates AQIM is willing to trade Islamist objectives for fund raising.

This is a small surprise from Mokhtar Belmokhtar, AQIM's head. He has always been a business person first, a Smuggler. He married wives from three desert tribes to keep his routes through the Sahel. Now, he is about to give up funding for military objectives alone.

This shows that the multi country task force operating in his backyard are being effective.

Hostage taking for ransom as a fund raising activity is one of the sources for funding AQIM, along with trafficking in people, drugs, cash, and even more mundane contraband like cigarettes. Hostage taking for funds, which stepped up in the last year, is about to dry up,
Mokhtar Belmokhtar. No one will pay anymore if they don't get their people back.

-Shimron Issachar

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Prime minister: France is at war against al-Qaida
(AP) – 2 hours ago

PARIS — France is "at war" with al-Qaida and will step up efforts to fight its North African offshoot after it executed a French hostage in the Sahara, Prime Minister Francois Fillon said Tuesday.

Fillon acknowledged that the group may have killed 78-year-old hostage Michel Germaneau before — not after — a failed last-ditch raid to try to free him.

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb said in an audio message broadcast Sunday that it had killed Germaneau in retaliation for a raid last week by Mauritanian and French forces that killed at least six al-Qaida militants.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy confirmed the killing Monday, vowing that the perpetrators "will not go unpunished."

His prime minister said Tuesday that France will reinforce efforts to work with governments in northwest Africa fighting al-Qaida in the sparsely populated swath of desert that includes the borders dividing Mauritania, Mali, Algeria and Niger.

"We are at war against al-Qaida," Fillon said on Europe-1 radio. He said France "thwarts several attacks every year," without elaborating.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Tuesday from Mauritania that the Sahel region in question "will not be left to terrorist bands, arms and drug traffickers."

"The combat risks being long but we will continue it," Kouchner said after meeting with Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. Sarkozy sent the minister to the region this week to discuss, among other things, security for French citizens.

Fillon said it was unclear when Germaneau was killed. He said French authorities considered the possibility that the hostage "had already been dead" at the time of a July 12 ultimatum issued by the terrorist group. Fillon said that was only an "assumption" based on "the abnormal, strange character of this ultimatum and of (the group's) refusal to engage in discussion with French authorities."

French forces agreed to take part in what he called a "last chance" operation in the hope they could still save Germaneau, the prime minister said.

Asked whether France would seek to find Germaneau's remains, Fillon said only that when British hostage Edwin Dyer was beheaded in the region last year, "his remains were never found."

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or North Africa, grew out of an Islamist insurgency movement in Algeria, formally merging with al-Qaida in 2006 and spreading through the Sahel region.

Amid increasing concerns about terrorism and trafficking in northwest Africa, Algeria, Mauritania, Mali and Niger opened a joint military headquarters deep in the desert in April to jointly respond to threats from traffickers and the al-Qaida offshoot.

Associated Press writer Ahmed Mohammed contributed to this report from Nouakchott, Mauritania.

The Rest @ The AP

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