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
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 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.