Friday, November 23, 2012

Mali: Another Foreign Kidnapping, All Travel Discouraged for Foreigners

Although I have filed a number of postings on Mali over the last two years, particularly as it relates to the northern zone of the country, which is dominated by al-Qaeda linked militants and other transactional extremists, our readers should know that a French national was kidnapped on Tuesday night (November 20), far from the troubled north. The hostage has been identified as Jules Gilberto Rodriguez Leal, 61.  

Leal apparently left Mauritania on Tuesday for Mali, which suggests that his movements were being monitored by surveillants who had inside information on his schedule.  

The abduction of the Portuguese-born Leal brings to thirteen the number of hostages that have been kidnapped by Islamic extremists inspired by those who have embraced the philosophies of the late al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden. Seven of these kidnap victims are French nationals. 

COMMENT: Our readers should keep in mind that northern Mail encompasses a geographical region the size of the France or the US state of Texas.  

Two groups are operating in the north, who have established sharia law. One of these groups is  the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), a splinter group from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). It is likely that Leal is being held by either of these groups. It is suspected that Leal is being held by MUJAO.  

MUJAO is a Mali-based group which aims to overthrow the Algerian government and institute an Islamic state, although it has a long way to go in achieving its goal. The group has declared its intention to attack Algerian, Spanish, French, and American targets. It has been designated as an FTO (Foreign Terrorist Group) by both US Department of State and the EU.    

AQIM, on the other hand, appeals to small cells and individuals who follow bin Laden's war against the West. Most members of AQIM, rely heavily on ransom kidnapping, drug trafficking, smuggling and other criminal activity to finance their political agenda.   

Northern Mali fell to Islamist extremists in April 2012, after coup leaders toppled the government in Bamako, Mali’s capital.  

Local police have reported that Leal was seized during a stop at a cafe on the road between Mali and Mauritania and on to Senegal.  

Considering that Leal was NOT kidnapped in the high-risk North, it should be presumed that ALL Western foreigners should avoid travel to Mali UNLESS THEY ARE AFFORDED A LEVEL OF SECURITY THAT CAN DEFEAT UPWARDS OF SIX EXPERIENCED GUNMEN. This should include the use of ballistic resistant vehicles.