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Thursday, June 23, 2011

AQIM Reported to have SA-7 Ground to Air Missils

PARIS - They had Kalashnikovs and rocket launchers. Now, with the plundering of Libyan barracks AQIM fighters have military explosives and no doubt formidable anti-aircraft weapons.

  • The interception April 12 in the desert of Niger of arms smugglers carrying 640 kg of explosives, including Czech Semtex and 435 detonators has confirmed the worst fears of Western and regional services: the transfer to the strongholds of Al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) of large lots of military weapons recovered thanks to the Libyan crisis.
  • According to the Nigerian security services, many of AQIM fighters were in the convoy.
  • "This confirms that the role of the Libyan Islamic radicals is not only to fight against Gaddafi but also to channel the flow of missiles and explosives. The goal is to revitalize the AQIM arms network," said in Algiers Mohamed Mokeddem expert, author of "France and armed Islamism".

  • "With the weapons looted from army barracks in Libya, they passed to the next level: the terrorists of Al Qaeda now have sophisticated weapons of war, and it's very worrying," he says, reached by telephone from Paris.

  • Since the occupation by the Libyan opposition of all the barracks in the east and the disappearance into unknown hands of thousands of tons of weapons, the alarm was raised in the region.

  • Last week, an official of the fight against terrorism in the region told AFP: "There is a great danger to see AQIM become one of the strongest armies in the Sahel. Many weapons have fallen into the hands of terrorists, mostly ground-air missiles."

  • Trafficking in small arms has always existed in the vastness of the Sahara and Sahel, intended for the tribes, rebellions, mafia groups and twenty years of Islamist actvities.

  • But the prospect of scattered including anti-aircraft missiles Russian-made SAM-7, of which hundreds have been stolen in Libya, changes the game and gives nightmares to the security forces in the region and beyond.

  • "The international intelligence services are very worried. This is a massive infusion of weapons in the international trafficking networks," says Eric Dénécé, director of the French research on intelligence, co-author of a report on the recent rebellion in Libya.

  • "Traffickers will first try to sell the goods as close to their area, to reduce the risk of being intercepted by the police and services, but nothing tells us that in a few months we do not find this material in Uzbekistan, Corsica and elsewhere ..." he told AFP.
  • The report, entitled "Libya, an uncertain future", published May 12, said: "Members of AQIM have acquired multiple copies of portable surface to air missiles of SAM-7 type from Libyan smugglers".
  • "On the SAM-7, there is no much doubt," says Eric Dénécé.
  • "Services in Mali and in Algerians say the same thing. Where did they go? It is another question ... And there's all what was exported by sea directly from Benghazi: Benghazi mafias are traditionally very active".

  • According to Mohamed Mokeddem, a U.S. delegation visited Algeria last week "to work on the traceability of such missiles. They are very concerned."

  • For if the SAM-7 would not be very useful for katibas (groups) of the Sahel AQIM, rarely threatened from the air, they could allow a shooter set in the end of an African airport to destroy almost certainly an airliner.

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