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Terrorists hideout is Southern Lybia.

Terrorist Mokhtar Belmokhtar

Terrorist Mokhtar Belmokhtar

The State Department warned Wednesday that a new terrorist group so called Al Murabitoun and leaded by  terrorist Mokhtar Belmokhtar has emerged as “the greatest near-term threat to U.S. and Western interests” in the Sahel region of Africa. The State Department’s move underscored the resilience of the militant factions and their ability to forge new terrorist alliances, even in the face of Western pressure.

Designating Belmokhtar’s faction as a foreign terrorist group allows the United States to take legal action against it, such as arresting individuals in the United States who provide “material support” and seizing assets in American-based banks. It does not authorize military action, but it is a useful form of diplomatic pressure on other nations to take steps to crack down on the group and its supporters.

The Obama administration has not always seemed to be of one mind on how aggressively to pursue Mr. Belmokhtar, especially when it comes to considering military action or providing intelligence to Algeria or other nations that would enable them to take such action.

Mr. Belmokhtar’s precise whereabouts is not known, though he and his group are believed to operate in Libya, southern Algeria and northern Mali.

Two North African Islamic terrorist factions merged to create the new group Al Mourabitoun. The new group has already been operating, largely in Niger, where it recently carried out several daring attacks (including a prison break in June and twin bombings in May). One of the merger partners is an al Qaeda splinter group led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar (the planner of the January natural gas facility attack in southern Algeria that got 37 workers and 32 terrorists killed). Belmokhtar has a reputation for always escaping the many efforts to kill or capture him. Belmokhtar was number two or three in the North African al Qaeda organization (AQIM) but formed his own splinter group in late 2012. Belmokhtar’s faction survived the French invasion. The other component of Al Mourabitoun comes from MOJWA/MOJAO (Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa) , from Mauritania. It is largely composed of black African Islamic radicals , led by Mauritanians and has work close to AQIM (al qaida in Magreb) in the past.

This merger was another aftereffect of the French led invasion that began last January in Mali.

Now, AQIM and Al Mourabitoun are operating in the south of Lybia. AQIM has the traffic of illegal drugs as main source of income, while al Mourabitoun´s “expertise” are kidnappings of westerners, looking for ransom.