Tripoli: Al Qaeda’s offshoot in North Africa has snatched surface-to-air missiles from an arsenal in Libya during the civil strife there, Chad’s President Idriss Deby Itno has said.
Itno did not say how many surface-to-air missiles were stolen, but said that he was “100 percent sure” of his assertion.
“The Islamists of al Qaeda took advantage of the pillaging of arsenals in the rebel zone to acquire arms, including surface-to-air missiles, which were then smuggled into their sanctuaries in Tenere,” News.com.au quoted Itno, as saying.
“This is very serious. AQIM is becoming a genuine Army, the best equipped in the region,” he added.
His claim was echoed by officials in other countries in the region who said that they were worried that Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) might have acquired “heavy weapons”.
“We have sure information. We are very worried for the sub-region,” a Malian security source said.
AQIM had originated as an armed Islamist resistance movement to the secular Algerian government.
It now operates mainly in Algeria, Mauritania, Mali and Niger, where it has attacked military targets and taken civilian hostages, particularly Europeans, some of whom it has killed.