Algeria thwarts Mali arms smuggling
By Walid Ramzi in Algiers for Magharebia – 16/04/13
Algerian security forces on Saturday (April 13th) intercepted an arms shipment from Libya to terrorists in northern Mali.
Special Forces eliminated five terrorists during the operation. They reportedly belonged to al-Qaeda splinter group Movement for Tawhid and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) and were in charge of protecting the arms shipment.
Wakt El Djazair quoted a security source as saying that a counter-terrorism military unit, supported by two helicopters, was able to destroy two SUVs carrying five gunmen. The difficult chase of the two SUVs was conducted by the joint security forces in the pastoral region called the Valley of Guineen, located about 190 kilometres from the Bordj Badji Mokhtar district in Adrar wilaya.
The newspaper added that three RPGs were seized in addition to five automatic rifles as well as a substantial amount of ammunition that was in the possession of the terrorist group. The armed group was providing protection to a large shipment of weapons from the Libyan city of Sabha to the Malian city of In Khalil, via a difficult desert route beginning from the border gate of Tin El Koum in the district of Djanet, through the Malian historical city of Ameghzi.
Two days prior to the operation, army forces conducted a wide combing operation of the area near the Malian city of In Khalil after receiving intelligence about the activities of a terrorist group in the area consisting of five people in an SUV.
The army imposed a cordon using helicopters to uncover the trail of the group.
Prior to the operation, a military unit discovered weapons and live ammunition hidden among the dunes while conducting monitoring activities in Tanezrouft desert in Adrar.
The seized weapons consisted of 137 empty magazines for automatic weapons in addition to ammunition belts for machine guns as well as 16 machine guns and ammunition.
"The investigations carried out by security forces around weapon smuggling networks revealed that AQIM depends on smugglers to change weapon storage sites and to transport heavy military equipment from its strongholds in northern Mali to unknown destinations inside Algerian territory," explained Kamel Hadif, a writer specialising in security matters.
A weapons smuggler who was arrested by Algerian security forces in mid-March provided information that arms shipments were transported by smugglers across the desert of Mali to the south of Algeria.
"Terrorist groups provide protection for routes across the borders allowing the passage of drug smuggling convoys whose activity has been greatly affected since the outbreak of the war of the Sahel and the Sahara," the smuggler reportedly said.
These leads prompted Algerian security authorities to send supplementary military units to areas used by terrorist groups and smuggling gangs to penetrate deep into the desert.
The military also strengthened its air force presence in monitoring desert routes in the south with several air bases in In Amenas, El Ménia, Ouargla and Tamanrasset.
These operations allowed the uncovering of a weapon cache in a desert location not far from the area of Jafar, north of El Ménia in Ghardaia wilaya.
Helicopters also destroyed two cars loaded with live ammunition belonging to smugglers in the province of Tamanrasset.
Security forces arrested a number of people involved in the smuggling and members of a terror support cell.
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