Bamako: An Al-Qaeda offshoot has seized a key arms depot in Mali after the deepening crisis faced by the country as rebels declared an independent Islamic state in the north, media reported on Monday.
According to reports the underground weapons and ammunition depot in the strategic northeastern town of Gao will vastly boost the firepower of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), sources said, even as the coup-torn country’s embattled transitional government struggled to assert its authority over the vast desert north.
“It’s one of the main depots of the Malian army,” a security source told AFP, adding that it had been built in case of “a long and difficult war.”
A regional security source confirmed the seizure, saying the vast cache of weapons will “really boost AQIM’s striking power”, and 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”, Mali’s neighbour to the east.
News of the seizure, which happened earlier this week, emerged Sunday after the interim government formed following a March 22 coup rejected the declaration of a separate Islamic state in Mali’s vast desert north.
The declaration was made by Islamist movement Ansar Dine (Defenders of Faith), backed by AQIM, and secular Tuareg group the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA).