EXCLUSIVE-Al Qaeda acquiring weapons in Libya:Algerian official
By Lamine Chikhi
ALGIERS (Reuters) - Al Qaeda is exploiting the conflict in Libya to acquire weapons, including surface-to-air missiles, and smuggle them to a stronghold in northern Mali, a security official from neighbouring Algeria told Reuters.
The official said a convoy of eight Toyota pick-up trucks left eastern Libya, crossed into Chad and then Niger, and from there into northern Mali where in the past few days it delivered a cargo of weapons.
He said the weapons included Russian-made RPG-7 anti-tank rocket-propelled grenades, Kalashnikov heavy machine guns, Kalashnikov rifles, explosives and ammunition.
He also said he had information that al Qaeda's north African wing, known as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), had acquired from Libya Russian-made shoulder-fired Strela surface-to-air missiles known by the NATO designation SAM-7.
"A convoy of eight Toyotas full of weapons travelled a few days ago through Chad and Niger and reached northern Mali," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"The weapons included RPG-7s, FMPK (Kalashnikov heavy machine guns), Kalashnikovs, explosives and ammunition ... and we know that this is not the first convoy and that it is still ongoing," the official told Reuters.
"Several military barracks have been pillaged in this region (eastern Libya) with their arsenals and weapons stores and the elements of AQIM who were present could not have failed to profit from this opportunity."
"AQIM, which has maintained excellent relations with smugglers who used to cross Libya from all directions without the slightest difficulty, will probably give them the task of bringing it the weapons," said the official. Continued...