But the gauntlet thrown down by Paris after AQIM
fighters murdered a 78-year-old French hostage in late July suggests Paris is prepared to take direct action against terrorists in a region it once ruled and which holds vast mineral wealth it still covets.
French and Mauritanian commandos attacked an AQIM
base in the central Mali desert on July 22, the first counter-terrorism operation in northern Africa in which Western forces are known to have participated, and signaled a newfound determination by Western powers to go after the region's al Qaeda network.
was still holding five other Western hostages: an Italian couple abducted in December in Mauritania and three Spanish aid workers taken in Mauritania.
In a 79-page document published by RFI and Liberation and dated July 20, 2012, AQIM
head Abdel Malek Droukdel warned his subordinates against alienating the local population through the implementation of Islamic law punishments and the destruction of "idolatrous" shrines.
Geopolitical analyst Pepe Escobar noted a more direct connection between LIFG and AQIM
in an Asia Times piece titled, "How al-Qaeda got to rule in Tripoli:"
In July 2011, AQIM
attacked a military base in Bassiknou, near Nema, in southeastern Mauritania.
Earlier in October, the UNSC adopted a resolution under-scoring its "readiness" to send an international force to evict AQIM
in response to a request from a Mali government.
The study and reliable news media report that Polisario members have been arrested and accused of criminal activities which include drug and arms trafficking, gun battles in Mali, AQIM
kidnappings in Mauritania and Algeria, and fighting as mercenaries for Qaddafi in Libya.
The source said that the military operations against AQIM
do not aim only at releasing Westerner hostages abducted by AQIM
, but also at conducting liquidation operations against senior officials of the terrorist group.
, which originated as an anti-government insurgency limited only to Algeria, now operates in Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal and has stated its ambitions to expand its operations across the Sahel, the name given to the thick strip of arid land that stretches across Africa along the southern fringe of the Sahara.
Wednesday denied the death toll reported by the Mauritanian army, saying only two of its followers had been killed.
He said he believed AQIM
was behind the kidnapping.