Cocaine snorted in the pubs and clubs of Britain is helping finance the al-Qaeda factions behind the Algerian hostage siege and the Islamist takeover of northern Mali, The Sunday Telegraph has been told.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and allied terrorist groups are thought to be raking in millions of dollars every year by providing armed “escorts” for traffickers smuggling the drug across the Sahara.
The militants are profiting from a trade that is exploding as South American cartels channel their product to European markets through Africa.
With old routes via the Caribbean now heavily policed, cocaine is increasingly being smuggled by boat and plane to poverty-stricken West Africa, where entire governments are now effectively on the drug barons’ payrolls.
It is then trafficked north across the desert to Europe – right through Mali and other areas controlled by AQIM and other Islamist terror groups, which exact a “fee” of around $2,000 for every kilo trafficked.
“Increasing amounts of cocaine is reaching markets in Britain and Europe from West Africa through AQIM territory and with AQIM protection,” said Matt Levitt, a former counter-terrorism official in the administration of George W Bush, who is now director of The Washington Institute’s Stein Programme on Counterterrorism and Intelligence.
A senior State Department counter-narcotics official told The Sunday Telegraph that consumption of cocaine in Britain and Europe was “increasing exponentially” as drug traffickers take advantage of traditional Saharan smuggling routes.
“We believe that the routes used by narco-traffickers go through territory controlled by AQIM or where AQIM is a powerful influence,” the official said. Read More…