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