According to Mali’s security sources, the leader of al-Qaeda's North African branch, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, has been in Libya for several weeks with the goal of procuring arms. Belmokhtar, one of the chiefs of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), is accused of perpetrating multiple acts of terror including the murder of 13 customs officers and an attack on soldiers in the southern Djelfa that resulted in two deaths; he has already been sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment in 2004 and 2008, as well as an additional 20 years in 2007.
Nicknamed "the uncatchable," Belmokhtar is a founding member of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (SGPC), which ultimately became the AQIM. He commands one of AQIM's two main battalions, operating primarily over a vast stretch of desert that covers Algeria, Chad, Niger, Mali, and Mauritania; several European hostages are believed to be held captive in the area by his forces.
Malian security sources claim that Belmokhtar's activities in Libya confirm the premise that AQIM intends to extend its sphere of influence and that "terrorists will do anything to create a sweeping network in the Sahel and the Sahara."
Belmokhtar supposedly acquired Libyan weapons during the overthrow and killing of tyrant Muammar Gadhafi.