United States and French military forces are quietly searching for Mauritanian national Moustapha Ould Limam Chafi for financing terrorist groups in the Sahel region, Chimp Corps exclusively report.
Moustapha, a former advisor of Burkina Faso leader, Blaise Compaore, was last year seen in Kigali, Rwanda.
The world was shocked when pictures emerged of Moustapha shaking hands with Qatar leader, Sheikh Tamim Ben Hamad Al Thani at Kigali International Airport on April 21, 2019.
Al Thani was on a three-day working visit to Rwanda.
Moustapha was one of the people who came to greet Al Thani on the tarmac, in front of the smiling President Paul Kagame.
In December 2011, Mauritania public prosecutor’s office issued an international arrest warrant against Moustapha and three other “influential members of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI) for financing of terrorism and support for terrorist groups.”
This investigative website understands that the Americans and French forces stepped up the hunt for Moustapha following increased terrorist attacks in Sahel late last year.
The Sahel region, according to United Nations officials, has experienced a devastating surge in terrorist attacks against civilian and military targets in recent months, sparking a humanitarian crisis in the region.
Terrorist-attack casualties in Burkina Faso Mali and Niger have leapt five-fold since 2016 – with more than 4,000 deaths reported in 2019 alone as compared to some 770 three years earlier.
The geographic focus of terrorist attacks has shifted eastwards from Mali to Burkina Faso and is increasingly threatening West African coastal States.
“It is suspected that Moustapha, a major financier of extremism in Sahel, is hiding in Kigali, Rwanda,” said a source who preferred anonymity to speak freely.
Moustapha’s photos were taken in the Malian desert in 2010 during the release of Spanish hostages which he himself had negotiated, and published in November 2017.
According to French publication Jeune Afrique, Moustapha was seen wearing an ocher scarf, praying in the midst of the jihadists, brandishing a Kalashnikov and posing with a smile alongside Nabil Makhloufi, ex-emir of Aqmi in the Sahara.
Terror after Terror
The increased attacks by terror group ISIS in Sahel where French troops are carrying out military operations have compelled western governments to intensify the hunt for terror funders including Moustapha.
The number of deaths in Burkina Faso jumped from about 80 in 2016 to over 1,800 last year.
And displacement has grown ten-fold to about half a million, on top of some 25,000 who have sought refuge in other countries.
The group’s rapid expansion in the Sahel has raised fears it could boost morale among its beleaguered fighters and help attract new recruits after the death last October of its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
More so, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has in recent months seen a rise in attacks by Al Qaeda-linked Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).
Islamic State has since claimed ADF as its affiliate movement in Central Africa. Pictures of IS fighters with ADF rebels flooded the internet in 2019.
Moustapha’s presence in the region continues to unsettle American and French officials.
“Of all countries, why did he choose Rwanda for refuge? Of what use is he to the government in Kigali?” said a western diplomat who preferred anonymity to speak freely.
“Why host a guy who has been supporting Al Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM)?” the diplomat wondered.