Libyan Rebel Weapons Are Reaching al-Qaeda, Algerian Minister Says

July 1, 2011 — Libyan weapons are being trafficked to al-Qaeda, including French arms supplied to rebels battling to oust Muammar Qaddafi, Algeria’s foreign minister in charge of Africa and the Maghreb said.

Weapons filtering out of Libya are strengthening al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which has clashed with security forces in Algeria, Mali, Mauritania and Niger in recent months, Abdelkader Messahel told reporters today in Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea.

“It’s serious, they are reinforcing themselves with arms coming from Libya,” Messahel said at an African Union summit. “These are already countries which are weak and this is weakening them even more.”

Spain’s Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said on June 30 that Libyan army equipment may be reaching al-Qaeda, according to the Associated Press. He didn’t mention rebel weapons. French planes in May parachuted rocket launchers and assault rifles to rebels holding a chain of mountains about 70 miles (110 kilometers) south of the capital, Tripoli, Le Figaro reported on June 29. The rebels used the weapons to push back Qaddafi’s forces from the region.

Libyan rebels today said they asked France to supply weapons and ammunition to fighters in Misrata, where civilians have died in the past two weeks following rockets attacks by Gaddafi’s troops.

French Supplies

“We are in discussion with France to supply us with the guns,” Ibrahim Betalmal, a rebel military spokesman for the besieged enclave east of Tripoli, told reporters late yesterday. The talks between France and the rebel National Transitional Council, based in the east, don’t involve the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, he said.

The international community disagrees over the legality of providing the rebels with arms. France said its parachute drops near Tripoli were within “the spirit” of the United Nations resolution that authorized the air war on Qaddafi’s forces. China said it went beyond the mandate, while Russia called it illegal.

African Union Commission head Jean Ping on June 28 criticized the action, saying that it increases the “risk of civil war, risk of partition of the country, the risk of Somalisation of the country” — a reference to longstanding divisions in the east African nation of Somalia.

Rebel units around Misrata, lacking artillery and tanks, have carried out offensives against Qaddafi’s forces in recent weeks using mortars and light weapons. They have been unable to push far enough to prevent nightly rocket bombardments.

Regional Threat

Betalmal said that NATO bombing raids against pro-Qaddafi targets around the city have increased, and that his fighters have reported seeing NATO ships firing at targets on shore on several occasions.

“We notice that NATO over the past two weeks has increased airstrikes, for which we are grateful,” he said.

Security forces from Algeria, Mali, Mauritania and Niger have clashed with militants, including Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, in the Sahel desert which spans the region, Messahel said.

The four countries are sharing intelligence and have created a 75,000 strong French and U.S.-trained joint force to combat insurgents in the desert, Messahel said.

–With assistance from Caroline Alexander in London. Editors: Heather Langan, Philip Sanders, Ben Holland

Author : Bloomberg

Article : 79146 sent on 02-jul-2011 06:59 ECT

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