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Thursday, March 18, 2010
Al-Qaida growing in strength and numbers in Africa
WASHINGTON – Al-Qaida's terror network in North Africa is growing more active and attracting new recruits, threatening to further destabilize the continent's already vulnerable Sahara region, according to U.S. defense and counterterrorism 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 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.
"For too long, al-Qaida's growth in this critical region of Africa has been overlooked,"