Jeremy Keenan, author of The Dark Sahara (2009) and the forthcoming The Dying Sahara (2013), both published by Pluto, has written an article in OpenDemocracy this week on Algerian ‘state terrorism’ and atrocities in northern Mali.
In the piece, Keenan argues that the Islamist ‘terrorist’ groups that have taken over control of northern Mali are not only the creations of Algeria’s secret police, the Département du Renseignement et de la Sécurité (DRS), but they are being supplied, supported and orchestrated by the DRS itself.
We reproduce an extract of the article below, and recommend checking out the full version on OpenDemocracy by clicking here.
What began ostensibly in January 2012 as just another rebellion by the Sahara desert’s Tuareg tribesmen had evolved within 3-4 months into what media commentators were calling “Africa’s Afghanistan”.
The Tuareg are Berbers, not Arabs, and are the indigenous population of much of the Central Sahara and Sahel. Their population is estimated at 2-3 millions. Their largest numbers, some 800,000, live in Mali, followed by Niger, with smaller concentrations in Algeria, Burkina Faso and Libya. In addition, a diaspora extends to Europe, North America, other parts of North and West Africa, the Sahel and beyond.
Since Independence in 1960, the Tuareg of Mali and Niger have rebelled against their central governments on several occasions. In 1962-4, a rebellion by Mali’s Tuareg was crushed ruthlessly. Major rebellions in both countries in the 1990s were forcibly repressed, with government forces specifically targeting civilians. Since then, Niger experienced a small rebellion in 2004 and a much greater one from 2007 to 2009. In Mali, a brief rebellion in May 2006 was followed by a two-year uprising from 2007 until 2009 when it dissipated into an inconclusive and transient peace. While the Niger and Mali governments have both been guilty of provoking Tuareg into taking up arms, all Tuareg rebellions have been driven by a sense of political marginalisation.
However, the rebellion that began in Mali in January 2012 was different. The Tuareg had more and better equipped fighters than in previous rebellions. This was because many had returned from Libya after Gaddafi’s overthrow, bringing with them extensive supplies of modern and even heavy armaments. For the first time in the long history of Tuareg rebellions, there was a real likelihood that the Tuareg might drive Malian government forces out of northern Mali, or Azawad, as it is known to Tuareg.
In October 2011, the Malian Tuareg who had returned from Libya joined up with fighters belonging to Ibrahim ag Bahanga’s rebel Mouvement Touareg du Nord Mali (MTNM) to form the Mouvement National de Libération de l’Azawad(MNLA). Even though Bahanga had died under mysterious circumstances in August, his men were still intent on continuing their fight against the central government. They were also joined by several hundred Tuareg who had deserted from the Malian army.
The first shots in the new rebellion were fired on January 17 when the MNLA attacked the town of Ménaka. The following week, the MNLA attacked both Tessalit and Aguelhok. Tessalit was besieged for several weeks before falling to the MNLA in March. At Aguelhok, some 82 Malian troops, who had run out of ammunition, were massacred in cold blood on January 24. This ‘war crime’ has been referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
To read the rest of this article, please go to OpenDemocracy.
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