Gaddafi recruiting hundreds of Tuareg fighters: Mali
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Last Updated: Wednesday, March 02, 2011, 11:58
Bamako (Mali): Hundreds of young Tuareg from Mali and Niger, including former rebels, are being recruited by embattled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to fight off a popular uprising, officials in northern Mali said.

"We are worried in many respects," said Abdou Salam Ag Assalat, president of the Regional Assembly of Kidal.

These young people "are going in masses (to Libya). It's very dangerous for us because whether Gaddafi resists or he falls, there will be an impact for our region."

He said regional authorities "are trying to dissuade them" from leaving, particularly ex-rebels, but that it was not easy as there were "dollars and weapons" waiting for them.

Assalat said an entire network was in place to organise the trip to Libya.

"Gaddafi's reach stretches to us. He knows who to call, they make group trips. There seems to be an air link from Chad. Others go by road to southern Libya."

"All of that scares me, really, because one day they will come back with the same arms to destabilise the Sahel," said Assalat, adding that "a former Malian Tuareg rebel leader is also in Libya", but did not mention his name.

The mayor of Kidal, Arbacane Ag Bazayak, shared the same concern: "What will they do next? Come back with the same weapons. It is a danger for the entire sub-region."

The Tuareg, a nomadic community of about 1.5 million people are divided between Niger, Mali, Algeria, Libya and Burkina Faso. In the 1990s and 2000 Mali and Niger were plagued by Tuareg rebellions.

Witnesses report the presence of sub-Saharan African citizens in Libya, who are being used as mercenaries by pro-Gaddafi forces.


First Published: Wednesday, March 02, 2011, 11:58

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