Scranton Times-Tribune, by Joseph K. Grieboski, guest columnist (Washington, DC, March 10, 2013) — When in a 2009 cover story for Townhall magazine, S.E. Cupp broke the news of the developing relationship between the Polisario Front and al-Qaida in the Maghreb (AQIM), the story received little attention.
But as the situation in Mali continues to develop, other credible sources – including the foreign minister of Mali, The New York Times, Le Figero, and France 24 TV – have proven Ms. Cupp to be terribly correct. These sources all confirmed the involvement of the Polisario in the bloody fighting in northern Mali on Feb. 23.
HAVE GUNS, WILL TRAVEL: Polisario fighters near Tindouf camps in SW Algeria. (Karlos Zurutuza, IPS) Numerous credible sources — including Mali’s foreign minister, NYTimes, Le Figero, France 24 TV, & Al Arabiya – confirm involvement of fighters from Polisario-run camps with al-Qaeda in Mali.
The French airstrike that killed Abu Zeid, one of AQIM’s leading commanders, also killed more than 40 jihadists and led to the arrest of seven fighters, including an Algerian national, a Mauritanian national, and a member of the Polisario. The airstrike was backed up by U.S. drones before French troops, supported by Tuareg fighters, intervened on the ground.
In 2007 the Mali government threatened the Polisario over its activities in the country. A Malian minister stated that the country will “no longer accept the violation of its territorial integrity by the Polisario Front.” Our country is not the Wild West where they can come to kill and kidnap people, and we have already made it clear,” the minister said.
In February, Tiéman Coulibaly, foreign minister of Mali, announced that Polisario fighters were among the terrorist groups in southern Mali. “In the beginning, they were only 500 insurgents. Now there are between 5,500 to 7,000 terrorists in northern Mali who were joined by lost youngsters, including young Sahrawis from the (Tindouf) camps,” the minister said in an interview with Atlasinfo.
According to a study published in the Al Arabiya Institute for Studies magazine by Tunisian academic Alaya Allani, about 300 Polisario fighters are participating in the Malian war as incorporated elements or active members of Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJOA). The MUJAO, she writes, “is made up of about 1,000 fighters and includes foreign elements, mainly 300 members of the Polisario and 200 militants of the terrorist Boko Haram group.”
While it presents itself as a Marxist independence movement, the Algerian-backed Polisario Front is really nothing more than a breeding ground for terrorists and is both a material supporter and active combatant in AQIM’s and MUJAO’s initiatives in North Africa, especially Mali.
The Polisario Movement spends a significant amount of time, energy and resources lobbying on Capitol Hill and at the State Department. U.S. representatives and senators regularly visit the Polisario leadership in southern Algeria; they host Polisario leaders in their offices; they use the Polisario as third-party agents to arrange contact with rogue leaders, such as Muammar Gaddafi and Fidel Castro.
But given the evidence of the Polisario Front’s active engagement in terrorism, it is time Congress holds a hearing to investigate the Polisario’s terrorist involvement and the Obama administration takes the crucial step of adding the Polisario Front to the list of foreign terrorist organizations.
Polisario fighters from Tindouf camps in Algeria. (AFP) On March 1, a Polisario fighter with AQIM was one of seven reported arrested after battle with French-Chadian forces that reportedly killed al-Qaeda commander Abou Zeid and 42 other militants. Le Figaro, France24
The Polisario Front has demonstrated its commitment to engaging in terrorist activity. Congress and the administration cannot turn a blind eye to the Polisario’s growing threat to American lives and interests in North Africa.
Joseph K. Grieboski, a Lackawanna County native, is CEO of Just Consulting, which focuses on human rights and humanitarian issues.