Moammar Gaddafi has reportedly hired the services of hundreds of Tuaregs from the nation of Mali and Niger as mercenaries in Libya.
A BBC report stated that members of the Tuareg community in Mali confirmed that a large number of their fellow tribe journeyed to Libya in the past week to help Gaddafi fight protesters.
About 200-300 have left in the last seven days, said a senior elected Tuareg official from the Kidal region in northern Mali where many Tuareg live, according to BBC. They are being paid about $10,000 to join up and then I've heard they are being told that they will get $1,000 a day to fight.”
Another Tuareg man told BBC: It's true many young men are leaving. It all started about a week back,
Rumors have floated for weeks that Gaddafi has paid mercenaries from other African countries to come to Libya to squelch anti-government protesters, but there was no official confirmation.
The perception that Africans from other nations are being paid by Gaddafi to kill Libyans has created an extremely dangerous dilemma for African migrants in the country who have nothing to do with being a mercenary .
Speculation ran rife that mercenaries came from countries like Congo, Niger, Sudan, Chad, as well as Mali.
We are worried in many respects, said Abdou Salam Ag Assalat, president of the Regional Assembly of Kidal in Malim according to Agence France Presse (AFP).
“It's very dangerous for us because whether Gaddafi resists or he falls, there will be an impact for our region. Gaddafi's reach stretches to us. He knows who to call, they make group trips. There seems to be an air link from Chad. Others go by road to southern Libya. All of that scares me, really, because one day they will come back with the same arms to destabilize the Sahel.”
The mayor of Kidal, Arbacane Ag Bazayak, told AFP:: What will they do next? Come back with the same weapons. It is a danger for the entire sub-region.
The Tuareg are an ancient nomadic people who live in the Sahel-Sahara zone of north-west Africa. There are about 1.5-million Tuaregs spread across various nations.
They have a long link with Gaddafi as well.
In the 1970s when Gaddafi created the Islamic Legion for the purpose of forming a united Muslim state in North Africa, many Tuareg fighters joined it, attracted by the promise of money.
Many of those Tuaregs remained in Libya and joined the military.
Gaddafi also allegedly helped Tuareg separatist movements in Mali and Niger and offered asylum to Tuareg soldiers.
However, an unnamed source at Mali's foreign ministry told the BBC: The government of Mali is strongly opposed to the use mercenaries in any armed conflict and is not in any way facilitating the movement of these people. We're thinking at the moment about how we can stop this.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.