Toronto’s Globe and Mail reports: When the 13-vehicle convoy of Malian rebels crashed through the Libyan frontier, armed with anti-aircraft guns and other heavy weapons, the Libyan border guards were soon overwhelmed.
They managed to arrest five of the insurgents, but dozens escaped and headed north into the lawless desert of southern Libya, where they quickly melted into the dusty terrain.
This account of a border clash late last week, reported by a Tuareg activist in southern Libya with sources at the remote border posts, is part of the growing evidence that the retreating Islamist radicals of northern Mali are now migrating across a vast region of the Sahara, taking advantage of porous borders and finding shelter in a widening swath of dysfunctional states.
France’s relentless campaign of air strikes and ground assaults in Mali has forced the Islamists to retreat northward into the desert. But the latest evidence of their new strongholds – from mountain caves in northern Mali to desert sanctuaries as far away as Libya and Sudan – suggests that the insurgents are regrouping in safe havens as they bide their time for a future counterattack when targets are softer.
It also suggests that the weak states of North Africa are becoming a valuable corridor for the Islamist fighters, allowing them to recuperate and rebuild in places French warplanes cannot reach. [Continue reading…]