Aghali Alambo, a former Tuareg rebel leader and aide to ex-Libyan dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, has been arrested in Niger for alleged arms smuggling and links with Al Qaeda’s North African franchise, police said Tuesday.
A source told Reuters that Alambo was arrested following investigations linked to the seizure in June 2011 of explosives and weapons smuggled into Niger from Libya, adding that the Tuareg chief “will be questioned on charges of ties to criminal groups, financing terrorism [and] arms trafficking.”
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The Tuareg are a nomadic people who live across the Sahara and Sahel regions of North Africa. They often complain of marginalization, and over the decades militant groups in Niger have taken up arms against the government.
According to the BBC, Alambo led a rebellion against the government of Niger between 2007 and 2009, which ended after former Libyan leader Gaddafi brokered a peace accord.
Alambo subsequently went into exile in Libya’s capital, Tripoli, where he became one of Gaddafi’s closest aides, staying at the colonel’s side until just before Libyan rebels took Tripoli last August.
He returned to Niger in September, and became an adviser to the head of the National Assembly, but relations with the government in the capital city of Niamey remained fraught, the Associated Press reports.
Ethnic Tuareg fighters, uniting under the banner of the Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA), have broken two years of relative peace in neighbouring Mali, demanding independence for the country’s northern region and launching attacks on towns and army bases since January.
Many of the rebels are experienced fighters who have returned from Libya after fighting alongside Gaddafi’s forces.
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