Mali rebels 'could destabilise region' as jihadists retreat into neighbouring countries, warn experts

 

Efforts to push back rebels in Mali could destabilise the region as the mainly foreign jihadists retreat into neighbouring countries, experts warned today.

Mali expert Dr Marie Rodet said although French military action was proving successful, it could just be moving the problem, rather than solving it, as rebels move out.

Dr Rodet, lecturer in the History of Africa at the School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS), University of London, said with little state control, it had been easy for potential jihadists to move to Mali.

"Most of these jihadists are coming from Algeria, Mauritania, western Sahara and further," she said.

"You have different groups of fighters on the ground and for the past nine months there was no state control over the region, it was even easier for all the potential jihadist fighters to come from anywhere.

"It has been said that some have come from Pakistan to train there."

Within nine months or so, it had been easy for people to come into an area which was inherently difficult to control because of its vast territory and difficult terrain, she said.

But efforts to push the rebels out could cause other problems in neighbouring countries such as Mauritania, Algeria, and Niger, Dr Rodet added.

"So far they (French forces) have been quite successful because if most of these fighters are coming from outside and they realise that Mali is no longer a safe sanctuary for their terrorist action, they will find another place.

"What is worrying is they move into neighbouring countries so it doesn't solve the problem - Mali will become safer but there's a high risk that it will destabilise all the neighbouring countries.

"That's why all these countries are watching very, very closely what is happening now."

Guy Lankester, veteran traveller to Mali, said rebels were mainly foreign rather than homegrown and France would "easily break" them.

Mr Lankester, who runs travel company From Here 2 Timbuktu, said any jihadist extremism that had come into Mali in the past year was "totally foreign", and as foreign to Malians "as it would be in Wales".

"Whatever jihadist extremism has come into Mali has come in really in the last year and is totally foreign," said Zimbabwe-born Mr Lankester, who organises tailor-made tours for people to discover Africa, including Mali, as well as Cameroon, Mauritania and Morocco.

"There is nothing in the society for it to key into - it is as foreign to them as it would be in Wales!"

Many of the "jihadists" will not be able to fade into the community, Mr Lankester said, because they are foreign, with "foreign tongues, clothes and colours".

He said they were few in number and many were young men who had been conscripted.

"This battle should be quick. France should easily break them," he added, saying he supported what France is doing if it sticks to the "stated mission".

Mr Lankester branded most of the rebels "mafia criminals", dealing in drugs, cigarettes and ransoms for hostages.

And Dr Rodet said the situation was often a vicious circle, where would-be terrorists needed to find ways of funding their actions.

"They are all intertwined processes - to be able to finance terrorist actions you need money and so if you are involved in trafficking you can get that, and so on. It's a vicious circle."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Angel Di Maria is shown the red card
tech
Sport
Roger Federer after his win over Tomas Berdych
sport
Life and Style
News in briefs: big pants in 'Bridget Jones's Diary'
fashionBig knickers are back
Sport
James Milner is set to sign for Liverpool this week despite rival interest from Arsenal
sportReds baulk at Benteke £32.5m release clause
News
The controversial Motor Neurone Disease Association poster, featuring sufferer Michael Smith, has drawn a series of angry complaints
newsThis one has been criticised for its 'threatening tone'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Inside Sales - OTE to £45,000

£25000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are a leading supplier of bu...

Recruitment Genius: Installation Engineer - Driveway

£28000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This innovative, fast growing f...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Project Manager - Technical

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is looking for a Jun...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral