According to Malian officials, Muammar al-Qaddafi's government has recruited hundreds of young Tuaregs, including former rebels, from Mali and Niger to act as mercenaries. As AFP's Serge Daniel reports, locals are worried about what this will mean for the restive region when they return home:
"We are worried in many respects," said Abdou Salam Ag Assalat, president of the Regional Assembly of Kidal.
These young people "are going in masses (to Libya). It's very dangerous for us because whether Kadhafi resists or he falls, there will be an impact for our region."
He said regional authorities "are trying to dissuade them" from leaving, particularly ex-rebels, but that it was not easy as there were "dollars and weapons" waiting for them.
Assalat said an entire network was in place to organise the trip to Libya.
"Kadhafi's reach stretches to us. He knows who to call, they make group trips. There seems to be an air link from Chad. Others go by road to southern Libya."
"All of that scares me, really, because one day they will come back with the same arms to destabilise the Sahel," said Assalat, adding that "a former Malian Tuareg rebel leader is also in Libya", but did not mention his name.
The Tuareg Rebellion in Niger and Mali is currently in a state of cease-fire, which was actually partially negotiated by Qaddafi in 2009. It's not hard to imagine that the situation could deteriorate quickly with an influx of well-armed Libya veterans.
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