July 12, 2011 / 12:07 PM / 9 years ago

Al Qaeda smuggling weapons out of Libya: Italian minister

ALGIERS (Reuters) - Islamist extremists in the Sahara desert have exploited the chaos in Libya to acquire weapons from the north African country, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said on Tuesday.

“Extremists in the Sahel region have taken advantage of the conflict in Libya to get arms,” Frattini told a media conference during a visit to Algeria.

Algerian officials have previously warned that al Qaeda’s north African branch is smuggling weapons out of Libya to its base in the Sahara.

Frattini’s comments were the first time a senior Western official has acknowledged explicitly and publicly that this has taken place.

Reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Louise Ireland

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