Sub-Saharan Africa has long been one of those places on Earth that just invites trouble & conflict, dating as far back as 500 AD by then there was already an extensive network of trans-Saharan trade routes. But peace would not last for long through the discovery of the camel; this enabled tribes to expand the trade routes. This also helped the conquering Muslims penetrate these trade routes, and with that came change.

Now that we know the place has been a clusterfuck since the beginning of time, it will come as no surprise to everyone that this is kidnap central in this area. I know what you are thinking straight away terrorists; but to be honest, there is more to it than that. The old trade routes have served their purpose for drug trafficking, gun running, and human trafficking since long before the war on terror. And for once it’s not just terrorists, criminal gangs are the ones who run the smuggling routes and carry out the abductions. The terrorist organisations themselves are the big buyers, that’s not me saying that they don’t organize the abductions. Of course they do, but I believe we often overlook the criminal gangs operating in these areas. The smugglers are the key to identifying the routes which I have no doubt will house these missing persons, or at least they will hear or see something while on their way through the smuggling routes.

So why do I believe that it’s more criminal gangs and not the terrorists? The criminal gangs have been around a long time before the likes of AQIM. They used these routes to smuggle drugs from the coast of Africa up into Europe; also don’t be so quick to think that just because they have aligned themselves to the likes of AQIM that they share their ideology. A senior officer of the Algerian army intelligence services explained “It is difficult but we know that several smugglers chose to join AQIM to benefit from the Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation,” (allowing armed Islamists who agree to surrender will be granted amnesty and reintegrated into society), basically if these thugs are caught they have an easy way out!

Moving on to my next point Abdellah Belakahal, an Algerian drug lord, he is well-known to the intelligence services as one of the five biggest drug traffickers in the region. Belakahal was believed to be born in 1977 in the district of Blahige in Hassi Gara, an oasis south of El Golea a region of palm groves and market gardening on the edge of the Sahara. Why is this man so important? Well Abdellah and his criminal gang were responsible for the abductions of two Italian men, Bruno Cacace 56, Danilo Calonego 68 and lastly a Canadian called Frank. These men worked as engineers for the Italian company Contratti Internazionali Costruzioni (CO.I.COS) based at the Ghat airport in southern Libya. Algerian authorities who have a good relationship with the Tuareg & Toubou tribes within the region, were prompted by Italian authorities to facilitate negotiations between the governments and the abductors.


An image, believed to be Abdellah Belakahal, obtained from an Algerian security services database


“The Algerian security source reported the Belakahal group had threatened to surrender the hostages to AQIM or to an Islamic State cell” if the ransom was not paid. The hostage-takers also allegedly demanded in addition to the money the release of two prisoners, among them none other than Belakahal’s brother who is in jail for arms trafficking.”

How does the story end?