Al-Qaida growing in strength and numbers in Africa
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Last Updated: Monday, March 01, 2010, 13:18
Washington: Al-Qaida's terror network in North Africa is growing more active and attracting new recruits, threatening to further destabilise the continent's already vulnerable Sahara region, according to US defence and counter-terrorism officials.

The North African faction, which calls itself Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), is still small and largely isolated, numbering a couple hundred militants based mostly in the vast desert of northern Mali.

But signs of stepped-up activity and the group's advancing potential for growth worry analysts familiar with the region.

The rapid recent rise of the al-Qaida group in Yemen which spawned the Christmas airliner attack is seen by US officials and counterterrorism analysts as evidence that the North African militants could just as quickly take on a broader jihadi mission and become a serious threat to the US and European allies.

The Mali-based militants have yet to show a capability to launch such foreign attacks, but are widening their involvement in kidnapping and the narcotics trade, reaping profits that could be used to expand terror operations, officials and analysts said.

Several senior US defence and counterterrorism officials spoke about AQIM on condition of anonymity to discuss internal analysis.


First Published: Monday, March 01, 2010, 13:18

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