The overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 flooded the Sahara with pillaged weapons and ammunition. Tuareg separatists used them to seize power in northern Mali, only to be ousted by even better-armed Islamists who set up training camps and imposed harsh Islamic law until the French forces arrived.The Islamists have also exploited Libya’s weakness. Veteran al Qaeda commander Moktar Belmokhtar bought weapons there after Gaddafi’s fall and his fighters passed through southern Libya to carry out a mass hostage-taking at an Algerian gas plant in January, in which 37 foreigners died. […]With no effective national army, Libya relies on local brigades to police its southern border region where at least 100 people died in ethnic violence last year. Tripoli’s failure to restore security there may be encouraging permanent Islamist camps and weapons stores, security officials say.
It isn’t just Libya. The whole Sahel region has “become an attractive foothold for insurgents,” Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama told the BBC this week. Meanwhile, a huge cache of weapons, suspected of belonging to Hezbollah operatives, was discovered in Nigeria yesterday. “The arms and ammunition were targeted at facilities of Israel and Western interest in Nigeria,” reads the military’s official statement. Weak states, porous borders, no police, easy access to weapons—no wonder this region is highly attractive to Islamic militants and criminals of all kinds.President Obama can give as many speeches as he wants about closing the book on the global war on terror, but this conflict is not yet done with him or us.[Muslim militant image courtesy of Shutterstock]