WaPo: Al Qaeda affiliate 'directing the fight' in Mali
The Washington Post had an interesting account of the war in Mali a few days ago. According to the newspaper's report, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is directing the jihadist coalition. There's no surprise there, but the reporting is granular, giving the story added import.
The Post reports:
DIABALY, Mali -- Most of the rebels who took over this central town for five days this month were Malian and spoke the local languages of the north and the south. But their commanders were different, local residents said. They were foreigners who spoke Arabic.
Six bodyguards protected the most senior commander, with a gray-speckled beard and a black turban. The Islamist militant ate Algerian-made spaghetti and Mauritanian-made canned tomato sauce. Malian fighters served only as his interpreters or brought him intelligence reports.
"The Arabic speakers were in charge," recalled Moussa Sangire, 71, a retired soldier who lives next to a house taken over by a group of foreign fighters.
What began as a homegrown, Malian-led rebellion is now entrenched as a conflict directed by al Qaeda's West and North Africa wing, mostly foreign fighters from Algeria and Mauritania, according to Western diplomats, Malian military officials and analysts.
They are an enemy that appears determined to broaden the conflict into a wider struggle against the West. The first reaction by the insurgents to the French forces' takeover of parts of the town of Gao on Saturday came from a top regional al Qaeda leader, published on the Arabic Web site of the al-Jazeera television network. He vowed to resist what he described as a "new Crusader aggression," adding that a "jihadist Islamist emirate" would be created in northern Mali.
"It seems that these groups are being led by AQIM," said Bertrand Soret, chief political adviser to the European Union delegation in Mali, referring to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. "The tactical backbone of the rebels is more influenced by AQIM."
As they say, read the whole thing.