Channel 4 – Lindsey Hilsum
A militant Islamist leader whose forces have just conquered two-thirds of the West African state of Mali vows to launch holy war against the West.
Omar Ould Hamaha, the military commander of Ansar Dine or “Defenders of the Faith”, which has scored a stunning victory in Mali against the failed state’s armed forces, now controls a region larger than France which includes three paved runways that could be used to fly in weapons or drugs.
He said: “Even if they (western forces) don’t come here, when we have finished conquering France, we will come to the USA, we will come to London and conquer the whole world. The banner of Mohammed (peace be upon his head) will be raised from where the sun rises in the east to where it sets in the west.”
His threats will be taken seriously because Ansar Dine is closely linked to Al-Qaeda in the Mahgreb, which has kidnapped about 20 western hostages since 2008, including the British tourist Edwin Dyer, who was murdered in 2009 after the government refused to pay a ransom.
We will come to the USA, we will come to London and conquer the whole world.Omar Ould Hamaha
The Islamists now control the cities of Timbuktu, Kidal, Tessalit and Gao, where Hamaha was interviewed by a local cameraman on July 12.
Local journalists and residents say the Nigerian jihadi group Boko Haram is operating in the area. Foreign fighters from Somalia, Pakistan and neighbouring African countries are making northern Mali their base.
“The rest of the world should not just watch – we should be helped, unless they would like to see another Somalia or Afghanistan,” said Tiebile Drame, an advisor to the interim Malian president, Diaoucunda Traore. “The situation in northern Mali is a threat to regional peace and to international security.”
In January, after a decade of instability in northern Mali, hundreds of heavily armed Tuareg fighters – known as the “blue men” because of their sky-blue robes – arrived from Libya, where they had been recruited by Colonel Muammar Gadaffi to fight his doomed campaign for survival.
They rekindled the long-standing struggle for an independent Tuareg state. Sections of the Malian army abandoned their weapons and fled while Tuareg officers switched sides. Soldiers in southern Mali mutinied, complaining that the corrupt government in Bamako, the capital, had failed to provide salaries, food and ammunition. The mutiny triggered a junior officers’ coup, and the president fled into exile.
The resulting power vacuum was the opportunity the Islamists had been waiting for. Two Malian jihadi groups, and the predominantly Algerian Al-Qaeda in the Mahgreb, seized the north, driving out Tuareg fighters, destroying Timbuktu’s ancient shrines and imposing harsh Sharia (Islamic) rule. Read more…