Islamist rebels will attack Mali’s capital if international military intervention is launched to regain control of the country’s north, a senior member of an insurgent group closely linked to al-Qaeda told reporters.
Oumar Ould Hamaha, head of security for the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) claimed that rebels have recruited thousands of new fighters and warned that intervention would galvanize the international jihadist movement.
“If an international or Malian military force attacks us, we will take Bamako in 24 hours,” Hamaha said by telephone. “The international community is slow to strike because it knows that if it does, it will spark a worldwide jihad.”
“Plans for a military intervention do not diminish in any way our determination to promote jihad,” Hamaha added.
The defiant rhetoric from MUJAO — which together with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Ansar Dine control the northern two-thirds of Mali— came as US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived in Algeria to rally support for intervention.
Earlier this month, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution underscoring its “readiness” to send an international force to drive Islamists out of northern Mali, setting a deadline at the end of next month for a firm plan for military action. Mali is working on plans involving troops from the Mali army and West Africa regional bloc ECOWAS, with training, logistics and intelligence support from France, the US and other countries.
However, military action would probably require the support of Algeria, which initially opposed intervention. The country shares a 2,000km desert border with Mali — seen as a key route for illicit trade of arms and drugs in and out of Mali — while many insurgents fighting in northern Mali are reported to be of Algerian origin.
“There is a strong recognition that Algeria has to be a central part of the solution,” said a US official, who added that the situation in northern Mali would be a “central focus” of Clinton’s talks with Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
The role of the US in combating AQIM in northern Mali has been a source of controversy in recent weeks. Hamaha said the MUJAO was aware that US surveillance drones were operating regularly in the region and that this was having the effect of encouraging support for the Islamist cause in northern Mali.
“We see drones passing overhead all the time. This is not something we take seriously — we are not afraid of drones. On the contrary, by trying to intimidate us, the West is only sharpening the sword we will use against it,” he said.
Experts said rebel threats to attack southern parts of Mali could not be discounted.
“I think the claims about Bamako are mostly posturing, but we cannot rule out the possibility of attacks outside of northern Mali,” said Andrew Lebovich, a researcher on the Sahel and North Africa. “AQIM and MUJAO have operated beyond the confines of northern Mali in the past and these groups do have the capability to stage attacks elsewhere, although it would be difficult given the attention on these groups at the moment.”
Hamaha said that there were no prospects of negotiation.
“We don’t recognize any government in Bamako,” Hamaha added. “The minister of defense called me to talk about negotiating towards a secular state. I told him it’s sharia or the sword. No sharia, no dialogue. Our mission is straight. There is no negotiation to be had.”
The Malian government refused to comment on the status of its negotiations with the groups, but the head of the EU delegation in Mali said that negotiations were still considered a potential alternative to conflict in the northern part of the country.
“No one is talking about military intervention as if it is the end of the track,” said Bertrand Soret, EU charge d’affaires in Mali. “We have been pushing for dual-track approach — negotiations and building up military force. We are not recommending talking to terrorists, but we are pushing for the Malian authorities to deal with some of the groups from their side.”
FRENCH AID: Paris has sent a navy ship and aircraft from Reunion Island with some pollution control equipment, but rough seas are spreading the oil spill The operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean yesterday apologized for a major oil spill, which officials and environmentalists say is creating an ecological disaster, as police prepared to board the ship. The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25. “We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Mitsui OSK Lines executive vice president Akihiko Ono said at a news conference in Tokyo. The company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue,” he said. At least 1,000 tonnes of
They stand as eyesores to most passers-by and potential public health risks to authorities, decaying buildings wrapped in tangles of exposed wire, studded with protruding leaky plastic pipes, vegetation billowing from cracks and terraces where particulates from polluted air have accumulated over time. With skyscrapers and ultramodern developments on every side, some of these “nail houses” are also sitting on land worth millions of dollars in Shenzhen’s inferno of a property market, where new-unit and second-hand home prices rival London. In battles over land and development, the nail house phenomenon has become widespread throughout China over the past two decades, with owners
An Italian alpine resort on Friday remained on high alert over fears that a vast chunk of a glacier on the slopes of the Mont Blanc massif could plummet in high temperatures. “No one gets through! No cars, bikes or pedestrians,” was the message at a checkpoint where an automatic barrier and two guards blocked the small road snaking up into a lush valley below the Planpincieux glacier, near the town of Courmayeur and the Italian-French border. The blockade has largely been greeted with contempt by the locals, one of whom said: “It’s a joke.” The huge ice block measuring around 500,000 cubic
SHOW OF SOLIDARITY: The publisher’s ‘Apple Daily’ newspaper has had to raise the number of copies printed from 70,000 to 550,000 to meet a huge surge in demand They have occupied Hong Kong’s central business district, marched by the hundreds of thousands through the territory’s streets and endured tear gas and pepper spray in pitched battles with riot police. Hong Kong’s pro-democracy supporters are now wielding a new protest weapon: their stock-market trading accounts. To show support for Jimmy Lai (黎智英), the publisher and outspoken government critic who was on Monday arrested under the territory’s new national security legislation, Hong Kongers have been piling into shares of his media company Next Digital. The result: a more than 1,100 percent surge in two days that propelled the stock to a seven-year