Mali residents find al Qaeda recruitment evidence

March 13, 2013

Al Qaeda recruitment drive could prolong French-led war in Mali, report shows devastating effects of violence on Syrian children, and a steady stream of black smoke means no new pope, yet. Today is Wednesday, March 13, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.

A French soldier carries mine detection equipment to search for mines outside Gao, Mali, March 9, 2013. REUTERS/Emmanuel Braun

Timbuktu discovery suggests war on al Qaeda could drag on.  French residents in Mali last week discovered evidence, in the form of ammunition, arms, IDs, passports and birth certificates, suggesting that Islamist fighters in the region are working to expand their reach. French President Francois Hollande said last week that French troops will start withdrawing from Mali in April, but an expanded Islamist network could complicate a drawdown:

[Islamist militants’] recruitment drive suggests the French-led war against al Qaeda and its allies could drag on long after France starts withdrawing from Mali next month, spilling across borders and destabilizing the broader region as Islamist groups fragment.

French troops entered Mali and launched airstrikes on January 11 to free the northern part of the country from rebel occupation. Though the operation wrested power from rebel forces in much of the region, analysts fear an extended conflict. Former senior U.S. counter terrorism official Rudy Atallah said regional al Qaeda commanders, some recruited from al Qaeda’s North African wing, AQIM, had developed a deep relationship with al Qaeda. “What you had was a slow indoctrination of their beliefs. It wasn’t just a 10-month brainwashing – it had been going on for years.”

Syria’s children suffer as civil war rages on. Charity organization Save the Children today released a report on the toil of Syria’s two-year civil war on the nation’s children. It found that children in Syria have been tortured, raped, and shot at:

The Save the Children report cited new research carried out among refugee children by Bahcesehir University in Turkey which found that one in three reported having been punched, kicked or shot at. It said two thirds of children surveyed said that they had been separated from members of their families due to the conflict and a third said they had experienced the death of a close friend or family member.

Save the Children’s chief executive told Reuters that rape has been used as punishment in the war-torn region, and has led families to marry off young girls in an attempt to protect them from sexual violence. “In most conflicts, over 50 percent of rapes are against children. I’m sure that is the case in this conflict too,” he said.  The report was published one day after an EU official was killed in a rocket attack.

Don’t expect a quick-bake pope. Black smoke is billowing out of a makeshift chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel, signifying that a new pope has not yet been elected after three rounds of voting. Two more ballots begin this afternoon. Members of the conclave have severed contact with the outside world since voting began on Tuesday evening. The smoke, which will turn white once a pope has been chosen, is the only way a waiting public will learn that voting is complete. Spectators in rainy Rome commented on the process:

“You can’t expect a microwave pope. It’s a process. These men are trying carefully to work out who should be the next to lead them. I am kind of happy it wasn’t white smoke because I just showed up,” 34-year-old American artist and missionary Adrian Britton told Reuters in the sprawling square.

Nota Bene: Reuters photographers captured Falkland Islanders showing fierce loyalty to the United Kingdom, weighing in on a long-time argument between Argentina and the UK as to the isle’s rightful ruler.


Swishy skirt – North Korean official comments on the “venomous swish” of South Korean president Park Geun-hye’s skirt. (The Associated Press)

Canada the green bandana – Thanks to climate change, Canada is sprouting acres of rolling greens, making the country look more like the United States. (The Atlantic)

“I want to escape” – A 25-year-old Chinese hacker’s blog gives a rare view into China’s secret hacking operation. (The Los Angeles Times)

Not a drop to drink – Despite heavy rains, India may be running out of drinkable water. (The New York Times)

Venezuela’s hard choices – Reuters journalist Gary Regenstreif discusses the options Venezuelans face following Chavez’s death. (Reuters)

From the File:

  • Five killed in militant attack on police camp in Kashmir
  • Egypt court to hear appeal on Sunday over vote ruling
  • Saudi Arabia executes seven for armed robbery
  • Germany bans three Salafist groups as anti-democratic
  • Suicide bomber kills 10 spectators at Afghan goat polo game
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