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[Published: Monday December 20 2010]

Arrest of Polisario activists for drugs and arms trafficking

Bamako, 20 Dec. – (ANA) – One of the most important network of drug and arms trafficking in the Sahel region has been smashed by Mauritanian and Malian security forces after the arrest of eight operatives in northern Mali and Mauritania, according to Malian and Nigerian security forces quoted by the French news agency AFP.

“We have arrested Sunday another element at the frontier between Mali and Algeria. At present, we can say that with Mauritania, we have arrested the main members of one of the most important network of drug and arms traffickers in the Sahara”, said a Malian official in charge of combating drug trafficking.

Mauritanian security forces confirmed that they had killed two men and arrested seven east of Mauritania along the frontier with Mali on 7 December. Then on 9 December, Malian security forces arrested six other traffickers emanating from the Polisario Front’s camps in Tindouf, south-west Algeria. A security source from Niger on a visit to Bamako, the Malian capital, revealed to AFP that “one of the main network of drug trafficking in the Sahara region is called Polisario because the group is composed of 90% of men from the Polisario camps and have contacts in all the countries neighboring the sahel region”.

The group was attempting to ship tons of hard drugs on board dozen of vehicles and was attacked by the Chadian army at the border with Niger. At least seven people are detained by the Mauritanian authorities and two others by the Malian security forces, according to AFP.

The presumed leader of the group is a Polisario activist called Soultani Ould Ahmadou Ould Baddi, alias Sleitine. He is from Rguibat tribe and Foqra Faction. He was hit by a bullet in his abdomen during his arrest. Others arrested included several who were identified as former members of the military wing of the Polisario and they are:

-Farha Ould Ould-Hmoud Maatallah, born in 1980, from the Rguibat tribe and the Souâad faction. A former soldier established in the Smara Wilaya, in the Tindouf camps, he is known for his relationship with the drug lords in the region namely Rubio and Cherif Ould Taher and his connection with Mohamed Ould Laakik, chief of military security of the Polisario.

-Breika Ould Cheikh comes from the Izerguienne tribe. He joined the Polisario Front in 1996 and since then has lived in the Aousserd Wilaya, in the Tindouf camps.

-Lahcen Ali Ould-Brahim known as the ''Goldorak'', the Japanese animated cartoon. He is from the Rguibat tribe and Oulad Sellam faction and a former Polisario gendarmes who became a drug and cigarette smuggler.

-Addi-Ould Ali, a former member of the Polisario from the Lebouihate tribe and was established in the Smara Wilaya, in the Tindouf camps.

Durin the military operation two Polisario men wwere killed,

Sidi Ould Mohamed Salem Ould Al Arbi and Moussa Ould Ali Ould M’hamed, while four others managed to escape.

The American television network, Fox News, has obtained video from North African security services that shows some of the first images of Al Qaeda's growing African branch known as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb or AQIM. This conforms that the Sahel region is increasingly becoming a hot bed of Al Qaeda activity.

Walid Phares, a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington says "Al Qaeda is very pragmatic in its moves. Eventually it moves like a strategic force even though it is made of small cells and networks. In fact its aim is to reach the Atlantic from the Sahara. They spoke about it in their chat rooms. Hence trying to offer their services to the Polisario or even penetrating it are part of its strategy." Indeed North African security sources confirm to Fox News that fifty-nine Polisario officials and soldiers have recently been linked to AQIM.

Phares who has just released a book called "The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East" says that given the fact that AQIM has already successfully penetrated the bordering countries such as Mali, Mauritania and Niger that it has "certainly showed interest in moving its cells or recruiting in the Sahara. It tells the people of the area that it will fight Morocco's presence and stand by them. In fact it is trying to install its own bases. It aims at creating something between a Somalia and a Yemen in the whole area."

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb which was founded in Algeria has a long and deadly record of attacks in the region. In 2007 they were behind a double suicide bombing in the Algerian capital which killed 41 people including 17 United Nations workers. Reports also describe AQIM being behind a failed attempt to sink US ships off Gibraltar, bomb the US embassy in Mali, as well as numerous kidnappings of foreign nationals and deadly attacks against countries in the region. (ANA)

AB/ANA/ 20 December 2010 ---

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