“Mali’s Islamist warlord declares war on the West,” by Lindsey Hilsum for Channel 4 News, August 18 (thanks to David and Jihadwatch):
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.
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….
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.
Hundreds of thousands have fled across the desert into neighbouring countries. “They’re leaving for fear of having a hand cut off, or being whipped or stoned to death,” said Deyda Mohamed, the police chief in Fassala on the Mauritanian side of the border, where he registers some 400 new arrivals a day….
In the last two weeks, militants from the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, which controls the area around Gao, stoned a couple to death for adultery in the town of Aguelhok and amputated the hand of an alleged thief in Ansongo.
Women are forced to stay inside unless fully covered and accompanied by a male relative and anyone who smokes risks a whipping. “We’re a democratic, sovereign, secular state,” said Hauroye Toure, a political science graduate from Gao, who fled to the Malian capital in April.
She and her family are now reliant on food donations. “We are in our own country and we should be free to behave as we wish. We are Muslims but they insist on spreading Sharia, and that’s what’s so serious.”…