AFP  reports on a disturbing trend in northern Mali, where al Qaeda-linked  jihadists from the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, Ansar Dine,  and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb have been in control since February. Foreign  jihadists from West African countries such as Togo, Benin, Niger, Nigeria,  Guinea, Senegal, and the Ivory Coast are filling out the ranks of the jihadist  groups. A Nigerien is identified as a combat commander. AFP also  identifies Egyptians, Algerians, and Pakistanis among those operating in  northern Mali:

Perhaps the most startling thing about these fighters along this  frontier route is that nearly all of them are from sub-Saharan Africa rather  than the Maghreb.?Me too, I am surprised,? Nigerien Hicham Bilal, who is leading a katiba  (combat unit) to Gao, admitted to AFP. ?Every day we have new volunteers. They  come from Togo, Benin, Niger, Guinea, Senegal, Algeria and elsewhere.?

Since all of them want to go to war, Bilal said, the fighters are no longer  divided into separate Islamist movements.

?We are all mujahedeen,? he declared. ?Here, there?s no more MUJAO (Movement  for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa), Ansar Dine (Defenders of the Faith) or  AQIM (Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb).?

A young Ivorian, clearly a new recruit, boasted: ?We are ready for battle. We  are waiting for the French or African troops to arrive.?

And residents of Gao, the largest city in northern Mali, report that two  training camps for new recruits have been established, according to AFP.

Seven months after the jihadist alliance seized northern Mali, the United  Nations, the European Union, the Economic Community of West African States  (ECOWAS), and countries such as Algeria are still  debating on whether to deploy forces to northern Mali.

Unfortunately, this delay has given the jihadists an opportunity to train and  organize recruits from the West African nations. Don?t be surprised if you see  reports that fighters from Mali are returning to their home countries to  establish networks there.

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