Residents who slipped into a non-descript mud-brick house after Islamist fighters fled Mali’s desert town of Timbuktu uncovered a trove of arms, ammunition and documents – the workings of the local al Qaeda recruitment office.
“We found lots of IDs, passports and birth certificates,” said El Hadj Garaba, who searched through the house with neighbors before French intelligence officers arrived.
The documents – from Mali, nearby African nations and distant countries like Saudi Arabia and Britain – suggest the Islamist groups used their 10-month occupation of northern Mali to stretch their tentacles across West Africa and beyond.
Their recruitment drive suggests the French-led war against al Qaeda and its allies could drag on long after France starts withdrawing from Mali next month, spilling across borders and destabilizing the broader region as Islamist groups fragment. . .