Sahara

GUNS, CIGARETTES AND SALAFI DREAMS – The roots of Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)

Mokhtar Belmokhtar

There are facts about Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) that are reassuringly hard and verifiable. The organisation exists. It’s run by Algerian Arabs. It’s made a home from home in the north east of Mali, on Tinariwen’s native earth. It earns millions and millions of euros from kidnapping westerners. No one knows exactly how much. Every now and then it chops the head off one of its victims. All in the service of a dream that has become a nightmare for the people of the Sahara

The sandstorm of war in northern Mali

The situation along the demarcation line that separates Islamist-held northern Mali from the south of the country is agonizingly confusing. How can we look through the sandstorm that surrounds the current Islamist advance south towards Mopti and the Malian heartlands.

Ansar ud-Dine speak out…at last!

Iyad Ag Ghali - Leader of Ansar ud-Dine

Ansar ud-Dine speak up…at last! The Touareg lead mujahedeen group currently controlling large tracts of northern Mali have finally posted their ‘Political Platform’, on their website. It’s one of the most illuminating and troubling documents that I’ve read so far during this entire crisis.

Algeria plays a master’s game in northern Mali

A few days ago, the pro-Azawad website Toumast Press reported that Algerian army personnel were in Gao training fighters belonging to Ansar ud-Dine and MUJAO,  the Islamist militia who recently drove the Touareg separatist  MNLA from the city.  They also reported that the Algerians have been sending heavy weaponry to the city under the guise…

Have we seen the last of One Eyed Jack?

Since the accords between the NMLA and Ansar Eddine were rejected by the NMLA political leadership at the end of May, it’s been fascinating, if not painful, to watch the contortions of the NMLA leadership as they attempted to accommodate Ansar Eddine, a movement with which they had plenty in common ethnically, but very little ideologically or strategically.

GADDAFI AND THE TOUAREG – Love, hate and petro-dollars

Gaddafi

Gaddafi has been buying the affections and fighting skills of the nomadic tribes of the Sahara for a long time. Despite widespread suspicion that Gaddafi only ever helped the Touareg to further his own territorial schemes, many Touareg fear the consequences of his fall from power.

ETRAN FINATAWA – The nomad alliance of Niger

Etran Finatawa

The word ‘nomad’ might make us dream about freedom, but in the southern Sahara it actually describes a man locked in a pitiless and epic struggle against drought, locusts and oblivion. The scrubland of the Azawak, an immense and table-flat plain in the northwestern corner of Niger, is home to two nomadic peoples, the Touareg and the Woodabé, who have been intimate with this daily existential grind for centuries.