Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghrib [AQIM], the terrorist group's North African franchise, obtained weapons from the cache of deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, according to Agence France Presse. A statement by AQIM leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar reinforced concerns about lost Libyan arms ending up in jihadi hands, and underlined questions about the Islamist wing of the Libyan revolution.
"We [al-Qaida] have been one of the main beneficiaries of the revolutions in the Arab world," Belmokhtar told Mauritanian news agency ANI. "As for our acquisition of Libyan armament, that is an absolutely natural thing."
AQIM is believed to have acquired surface-to-air missiles, which could pose a serious threat to air traffic in the region, AFP reported.
The statement follows a February report from now-defunct Libyan newspaper Oea, which was cited in jihadi forums, about a group of al-Qaida-style militants acquiring the government's weapons. Other reports indicate that Hamas acquired some of the loose armaments, including surface-to-air missiles.
Belmokhtar also said that Libyan rebels, who have now conquered the country and killed Dictator Muammar Gaddafi, were from a similar ideological background as AQIM. "We did not fight, alongside them [Libyan rebels] in the field against the Gadhafi forces," he added. "But young Islamists, jihadis ... were the ones spearheading the revolution in Libya."