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» 09.12.2009 - Arab states slammed for using excessive force
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» 24.09.2009 - North African leaders call for wide-scale UN reform
» 05.09.2008 - Top US official tours Maghreb

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Al-Qaeda gaining strength in Africa

afrol News, 1 March - The US government says the Al-Qaida's terror network in North Africa its gaining strength and is threatening to destabilise the already weak Sahara region.

According US defense and counterterrorism officials the Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), although the number of militias is too small, but the recent attacks, to both local and foreign personnel, is alarming.

The officials said the advances by the Islamist militants have set off alarms within the counterterrorism community, with more surveillances having been incorporated to avert a possible attack on international flights bound for both Europe and US.

Defense officials said the threat of failed Christmas airliner attack, which officials say was planned and directed by Yemeni insurgent leaders, was a clear indication the Al Qaeda is gaining strength.

“A key fear is that as AQIM expands, its criminal and insurgent operations will continue to destabilise the fragile governments of heavily Islamic North Africa, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania much as it has in Mali,” officials said.

The US has been working to boost poverty-stricken Mali's defenses. Last year, the US gave $5 million in new trucks and other equipment to its security forces, and Pentagon funds also have been approved to provide training to the country.

The group has since absorbed some of al-Qaida's techniques for roadside bombs and suicide attacks. Occasionally it has issued videos and statements on jihadi Internet forums.

In December 2007, the group attacked the UN's Algerian headquarters, killing 37 people, including 17 UN staff members.

At the same time, AQIM has increased its recruiting efforts, drawing insurgents from Mauritania, Nigeria and Chad, officials said.

In recent months, abductions have been on the rise in both Mali and Mauritania, with kidnappers demanding ransoms to secure the release of hostages.

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