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?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
  • Get to the point
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: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor