Sunday, June 06, 2004
It is not surprising that Al Qaeda has extended itself into the trackless wastes of the southern Sahara desert. Nor is it surprising that the United States, under President Bush, would pursue them. But there is something weird going on here:
The Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat has spent about £4 million, which it received in return for releasing 17 European tourists kidnapped last year, on surface-to-air missiles, heavy machine-guns and mortars.
It also bought satellite positioning equipment to enable it to conceal and later return to weapons caches buried in the sands of the Sahara.
Wait a minute! What is this about terrorists receiving a big wad of money "in return for releasing 17 European tourists kidnapped last year"? It turns out that the Germans paid ransom to these dirtbags:
Governments in the Sahara region were furious when Germany approved payment of a €6 million (£4 million) for the hostages, who included Germans, Austrians and Swedish tourists.
Berlin has never officially acknowledged the deal, but it is widely believed that the government of Mali paid the ransom in return for a promise of additional aid from Berlin.
A Western diplomat said: "This sum was equivalent to 25 per cent of the defence budget of Niger last year. That gives the extremists a huge boost, an advantage which they can exploit to destabilise these governments."
In fairness, the Sahara was an obvious place for Al Qaeda to go. Vast expanses, difficult terrain, and lots of places to bury weapons. But the Germans have hurt the West in the war on terror to buy the return of European travelers who almost certainly deplore American efforts to clean up this mess. Beyond the stupidity of teaching Al Qaeda that hostage taking is a great way to raise money, why should any government give money to terrorists to buy the return of people so foolish as to vacation in "southern Algeria"?
Read the whole thing.
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