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Thursday, September 8, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

EU officials: Much of Gadhafi's missile stockpile now in Al Qaida's hands

LONDON — The European Union has warned that surface-to-air missiles from Libya could be used to down Western flights over Africa.


Officials said Al Qaida's network in North Africa has been strengthened by the fall of Libyan Col. Moammar Gadhafi in August. They said Al Qaida Organization in the Islamic Maghreb has acquired hundreds of missiles and rockets that could down Western aircraft.

"It is a group that is Africanizing and seeking to extend its area of influence," EU counter-terrorism coordinator Gilles de Kerchove said.

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At a briefing on Sept. 5, de Kerchove said AQIM has acquired much of Gadhafi's stockpile of surface-to-air missiles from Libya, Middle East Newsline reported. He said the SAMs as well as other weapons were smuggled to AQIM strongholds in Mali, Niger and other countries in the region.

"They gained access to weapons, either small arms or machine-guns, or certain surface-to-air missiles, which are extremely dangerous because they pose a risk to flights over the territory," de Kerchove said.

Officials said AQIM obtained Gadhafi's arsenal of SA-7, SA-14 and SA-24 shoulder-fired air defense systems. They said the network financed the acquisitions through arms and drug trafficking as well as abductions throughout North Africa, including Algeria, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

De Kerchove said AQIM was also expanding to the Arabian Peninsula, which includes Saudi Arabia and Yemen. He said AQIM was also extending its influence south of the African continent into Senegal.

Officials said EU plans to increase efforts to track AQIM. They said Brussels would establish counter-insurgency centers in Algeria and Mauritania as well as help Mali impose order in the north, a haven for Al Qaida.

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