London: Al Qaeda’s branch in North Africa had created an academy for terrorists during its occupation of Timbuktu.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) used a two-storey building on the edge of the ancient city, which they turned into a sophisticated training centre that was operating until it was destroyed by a French air strike three weeks ago.
According to the Telegraph, America and its allies have always tried to make it impossible for al-Qaeda to run permanent, dedicated training camps, but in Timbuktu, AQIM managed to run the training centre for about nine uninterrupted months.
Moreover, it consciously followed the example of Osama bin Laden’s camps in Afghanistan in the 1990s.
The training camps was attended by Malians, Pakistanis, Algerians and Mauritanians, but the biggest contingent of foreign trainees were Nigerians, all of them members of Boko Haram, a particularly violent group responsible for thousands of deaths.
According to the report, Faraj Mohammed Arbi, a 30-year-old resident of Timbuktu, worked as a cook and cleaner at the facility.
A Pakistani, known as Amir, was in charge of maintaining the armoury, which included heavy machine-guns and AK-47 assault rifles.
The volunteers were taught formal lessons, with some subjects that included religious instruction and ideological indoctrination and recruits were issued with typical school exercise books.
Today, the Gendarmerie building is a shattered wreck, pulverised by two French bombs, but Arbi said that AQIM’s commanders were quick to realise that their training centre would be a target, the report said.
After the first French air raids on January 10, they evacuated the Gendarmerie building and dispersed their trainees elsewhere in Timbuktu, it added.