BAMAKO, Mali, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- Rebels in the African nation of Mali say the revolution in neighboring Libya has produced a windfall of weapons for their arsenals.
The Tuareg movement in particular cashed in as its fighters pitched in with Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi during the uprising and came home with fresh supplies of rifles, machine guns, mortars and other heavier weapons they are now using in their own rebellion.
"This is a fairly significant military force," Pierre Boilley, an expert on the Tuareg at the University of Paris, told The New York Times. "The game has changed. They can directly attack the Malian army. I think the army will have trouble."
The Tuareg are seeking independence from Mali, a nation the Times called an important U.S. ally against al-Qaida. Their guerrilla force of roughly 1,000 fighters has scored a number of victories in recent months against the Malian army.
"All of a sudden we found ourselves face to face with a thousand men, heavily armed," said Malian Foreign Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga. "The stability of the entire region could be under threat."