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Northern Mali, 'magnet for international jihadis'

October 25th, 2012
06:41 PM ET

By Lucky Gold, CNN

Despite repeated assurances by U.S. President Barack Obama that al-Qaeda is “on the run,” in the African nation of Mali, al-Qaeda linked rebels have gained control in the northern part of the country. Taking advantage of a failed state, they have imposed an extremist version of Sharia law, abolishing basic rights for women, destroying the local culture and building an international terror network.

Just how bad is it? Adam Nossiter, West Africa Bureau Chief for the New York Times, came out of Mali on Wednesday night, and speaking from neighboring Senegal, he painted a grim picture of the situation there.

“It is fair to say that the region controlled by al-Qaeda and its allies is suffering under one of the harshest regimes under the planet,” said Nossiter. “There are public whippings, there are amputations for theft, there has even been an execution by stoning. Women who dare to leave the house without a veil are arrested, and the Islamists are even compiling lists of unmarried pregnant women.”

Even more ominous, says Nossiter, “this area of Norther Mali is becoming a magnet for international jihadis, in somewhat the same way that Afghanistan was.”

He added, “We are hearing reports from people who live in that region that foreign fighters are coming into Northern Mali to help defend this quasi al-Qaeda state. They are coming from Western Sahara, they’re coming from Algeria, they’re coming from Nigeria and some are even reported to have come from Pakistan.”

Asked if the Malian army is capable of combating this influx of foreign jihadists, Nossiter was dubious: “They’re a very long way from doing it, judging by what I saw. There’s no organized chain of command. They lost a great deal of their material, their weapons, some officers have even sold weapons. They’re disorganized and they lack morale. They don’t have the fight for it… This is a job for the western allies who are determined to do something about this.”

Africans are prepared to stand up and fight for democracy and against tyranny

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson is the man in charge of coordinating that alliance. He was asked what specifically the United States and its allies are willing to do to stem the jihadist tide in Mali. For instance, would they use drones or even boots on the ground?

Carson insisted that any action should be “led by African forces.” He added, “There is a need for international assistance and support, but that should not be in the form of individuals fighting on the ground. It is training, it is equipment and it is logistical support to Malian forces, to African forces - no need for American or western forces to participate in military activities.”

Asked if those African forces were up to the challenge, Carson said, “Yes, Africans have demonstrated after over the last two decades that they are prepared to stand up and fight for democracy and against tyranny. They’ve done it in Somalia, and in West Africa, in efforts against Charles Taylor in Liberia. If they are given support from the international community, they can in fact be effective on the ground.”

CNN’s Claire Calzonetti produced this piece for television.

Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Latest Episode
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Udeme Etuk

    Dear Amanpour,
    I watched this episode of your programme with a lot of sympathy for the ordinary malian folks and the entire West African region. Everyone who had followed developments in Mali would have realized the Country was a disaster waiting to happen.
    The Levels of poverty and underdevelopmet amongst the Citizenry and the increasing insensitivity of the ruling class has made the country a veritable ground for Al Qeada. Unfortunately Mali has no natural resources to attract the interests of the S

    October 28, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Reply
  2. Udeme Etuk

    Super Powers. Therefore the excuse of elections by the Americans and the Slow response of the French is to underscore the importance of their interest in Mali.
    However, I must advise the Powers to act now or risk spending so much to liberate the entire region. West Africa is in real Trouble.

    October 28, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Reply
  3. Peter Fashola

    Africa is going to the dogs,what are we waiting for.This terror group cannot be tolorated at all.They are killers.ACT!!!

    October 30, 2012 at 6:35 pm | Reply
  4. Rod Paget

    Men wore the veil in Ivory coast in the 80s when I was a young lad in a sugar mill near Corrogo. These families would sail on the desert sands as I imagined north of us. Visitors from the ancient slave east west sub saharan edge grass lands . Enough to have a small herd and leave them in the desert they came into buwakkii to the witch drs store I happened to be in. Tall and beautiful and all the model like creatures men and women would perhaps buy a special feather later finding out with my fellow jet black companion that these feathers could make you invisible. Yes in a small village I could understand the need for such a cleaver way to make a social statement by holding the feather before ones face would render one not visible. Perhaps a mental trick for privacy ....

    November 1, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Reply
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