News24

Al-Qaeda offshoot seizes arms depot

2012-05-27 21:59

Bamako - An al-Qaeda offshoot earlier seized a key underground arms depot in the strategic town of Gao in Mali's rebel-controlled north, security sources said on Sunday.

The al-Qaeda fighters in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) "have taken our underground weapons and ammunition depot in Gao. It's one of the main depots of the Malian army", said a security source.

The depot was built to deal with "the prospect of a long and difficult war", the source said.

A regional security source confirmed the seizure, saying the vast cache of weapons will "really boost AQIM's striking power", adding: "It is really impressive what AQIM has found in the underground depot."

The source said the group "is today more armed than the combined armies of Mali and Burkina Faso".

Tuareg and Islamist rebels said overnight that they had joined forces to create an Islamic state in the vast desert north.

Mali has been in turmoil since a March coup and the north has steadily slipped out of Bamako's control.

Regional and Western leaders have long feared a breakaway state in Mali's remote desert north could become al-Qaeda's main safe haven.