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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

FARC Behind Deal with AQIM to Guard Sahara Trafficking Routs

South American drugs gangs are providing millions of pounds of funding for al-Qaeda terrorists by paying them to ensure the safe passage of cocaine across north Africa and towards Europe.
Islamic rebels familiar with the barren terrain of the Sahara have struck deals under which they provide armed security escorts for drug traffickers in return for a slice of their profits.

Counter-terrorism experts said that the terrorists belong to the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) group, which has kidnapped a series of Westerners and killed a British tourist last year.

They warned that the money they receive from drugs gangs could be used to attract new recruits and plan terrorist attacks on European cities.

Olivier Guitta, a counter-terrorism and foreign affairs consultant, said that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the Marxist rebel group, was the “force behind the agreement with AQIM”.

In the past drugs were flown or shipped from South America straight to Spain or Portugal but the introduction of more rigorous controls in those countries led FARC to change its way of operating.

” Since the routes going through Europe became much more difficult to use, FARC saw an opportunity to use the Sahel and North Africa as its new drug route,” said Mr Guitta.

“And since AQIM has a hold over the area and was already involved in major smuggling operations it made sense to offer them a deal.

“AQIM is an independent unit of al-Qaeda and does not share the monies with al-Qaeda central but is looking to pull off terror attacks on its own in Europe.”

Terrorists linked to al-Qaeda in north Africa have made $130m (£84m) from helping drugs gangs and kidnap ransoms since 2007, according to one report citing an investigation by the Algerian government.

The Rest @ In Depth Africa

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