Al-Qa'ida had terrorist academy in Timbuktu despite crackdown
Al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) used a two-storey building on the edge of the ancient city as a sophisticated training centre which continued operating until it was destroyed by a French air strike three weeks ago.
America and its allies have tried to make it impossible for al-Qa'ida to run permanent, dedicated training camps. After years of effort, they had come close to eradicating any centres of this kind. But in Timbuktu, AQIM managed to run this training centre uninterrupted for about nine months.
Moreover, it consciously followed the example of Osama bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan in the 1990s. Just as he gathered volunteers from across the Muslim world, so AQIM amassed a multinational array of recruits at its camp in Timbuktu.
Along with Malians, there were Pakistanis, Algerians and Mauritanians. But the biggest contingent of foreign trainees were Nigerians, all of them members of Boko Haram, a particularly violent group. Their presence vindicates a claim by Nigeria's government that AQIM has forged a strategic alliance with Boko Haram.
When AQIM captured Timbuktu last March, the movement took over the facilities abandoned by Mali's security forces. The local headquarters of the Gendarmerie Nationale, a paramilitary unit, was soon turned into a training camp.
Posted by: tipper 2013-02-11