Arrests Point to FARC Ties to Al Qaeda in North Africa

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Colombia’s largest insurgency, the FARC, has allegedly been exchanging drugs for weapons with the North Africa faction of Al Qaeda, highlighting the international reach of the guerrilla’s criminal networks.

In March, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) arrested two Colombians, one an alleged member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), along with three alleged members of a Salafist group linked to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in Algeria on drug trafficking charges, according to the Spanish news organization Cadena Ser.

The Colombians were allegedly delivering a shipment of cocaine to swap for cash, and arms acquired in Libya following the fall of dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Spanish intelligence and DEA sources told Cadena Ser that several months before, FARC collaborators had made contact with members of AQIM, who had arranged the deal through members of a local Salafist group operating under their orders.

InSight Crime Analysis

The AQIM is a faction of Al Qaeda with roots in Algeria but which recently rose to prominence for its role in the conflict in northern Mali. Unlike more zealous factions of Al Qaeda, the group has frequently demonstrated it is willing to fund itself through criminal activities such as drug trafficking and kidnapping for ransom.

It is quite possible that, as the investigation suggests, the group has established ties with the FARC. They share a mutual hatred of the United States. However, given the two groups’ disparate ideologies, this is much more likely to be a purely criminal business relationship than any sort of political alliance. 

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