A senior security official in Algeria claims that the Al Qaeda terrorist organization is taking advantage of the turmoil in Libya to purchase weapons, according to Reuters.
Al-Qaeda insurgents are reportedly acquiring surface-to-air missiles, Russian-made RPG-7 anti-tank rocket-propelled grenades, Kalashnikov heavy machine guns, Kalashnikov rifles, explosives and ammunition, and smuggling them to a northern Mali.
The Algerian official who spoke to Reuters said that Al Qaeda's north African arm, known as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) had obtained from Libya Russian-made shoulder-fired Strela surface-to-air missiles known by the NATO designation SAM-7.
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.”
The Algerian officials did not indicate that the Libyan regime is supplying arms to Al-Qaeda.
Still, there have been fears that Al-Qaeda might try to fill in the power vacuum in various Arab states where the current leadership is on shaky ground. This is especially true in Yemen which has an active Al-Qaeda cell.
Reuters indicated that Algeria, which has been in conflict al Qaeda's north African segment for years, closely observes insurgent activity across north Africa and the Sahara.
Algeria has already witnessed some unrest within its borders, but nothing of the magnitude seen in Libya and Egypt.
The Algerians are very, very worried, and with good reason [about unrest in Libya spilling over], a Western diplomat told Reuters.
Moreover, there are fears that Al-Qaeda could explicit the chaos in Libya, like they did in Somalia.
Transforming Libya into a Somalia is very easy,” a source told Reuters.
“All the coalition has to do is turn a blind eye to AQIM's activity in Libya now.”
Indeed, the Algerian security official believes Al-Qaeda had entered the ranks of the rebels.
We understand that AQIM is evolving with ease among the rebels and is taking advantage to acquire the most sophisticated weapons such as SAM-7s [surface-to-air missiles], he said.
He further warned: If the Gaddafi regime goes, it is the whole of Libya -- in terms of a country which has watertight borders and security and customs services which used to control these borders -- which will disappear, at least for a good time, long enough for AQIM to re-deploy as far as the Libyan Mediterranean. The coalition forces must make an urgent choice. To allow chaos to settle in ... or to preserve the Libyan regime, with or without Gaddafi, to restore the pre-uprising security situation.”