Nouakchott: Al Qaeda`s North Africa
franchise acknowledged it had acquired part of slain Libyan
dictator Muammar Gaddafi`s arsenal, in comments by one of its
leaders quoted on Thursaday.
Mokhtar Belmokhtar, believed to be one of the leaders
of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), made the remarks to
a Mauritanian news agency, which has carried interviews and
statements from the group in the past.
"We have been one of the main beneficiaries of the
revolutions in the Arab world," said Belmokhtar, an Algerian
"As for our acquisition of Libyan armament, that is an
absolutely natural thing," he said, without elaborating on the
nature of the weapons purportedly acquired.
Officials and experts have expressed concern that part
of Gaddafi`s considerable stock of weapons could end up in the
hands of AQIM, which has bases in the Sahel and currently
holds several foreign hostages.
According to several experts, AQIM has acquired
surface-to-air missiles which could pose a threat to flights
over the region.
Belmokhtar also claimed a level of ideological
convergence existed between his movement and the Islamist
rebels who eventually toppled Gaddafi last month and became
Libya`s new rulers.
"We did not fight, alongside them in the field against
the Gaddafi forces," he said. "But young Islamists, jihadis...
were the ones spearheading the revolution in Libya."
The National Transitional Council now in charge of
Libya owes its victory over Gaddafi`s 42-year rule partly to
Western military backing and claims to seek the establishment
of a moderate Islamic administration.