The rebels in northern Mali got their weapons by way of the black market in the wake of the NATO-imposed regime change in Libya. Where they got their money, however, is another matter entirely.
According to former US Ambassador to Mali Vicki Huddleston, the French government paid $17 million to ransom French hostages held by some of the same factions active in the Malian rebellion.
Officials from the former French government denied the ransom. Current officials are less willing to go on record, refusing to either confirm or deny the ransoms. Huddleston says between France and other EU nations some $89 million were sent to Islamists in Northern Africa.
The French Foreign Ministry says that their goal during the crisis was to secure the release of the hostages, but the US State Department condemned that, saying that EU nations should never pay ransoms because its “just feeding into the coffers of the terrorists.”
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