CAIRO - Islamist militants are shifting their focus from southwest Asia to Arab North Africa and stepping up violence in the region, Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki said in an interview published on Tuesday.

Moderate Islamists who were harshly suppressed by secular Arab dictators have gained political power or prominence following popular uprisings in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. But armed, militant Islamist groups, including the North African wing of al-Qaida, have also benefited from lapses in internal security across the region wrought by the often chaotic transition to more democratic government.

Marzouki told pan-Arab daily al Hayat that "The centre of the terrorist movement is moving now from Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Arab Maghreb region...and the great danger is at our doors."

Marzouki said talks with such militants were futile and the threat they posed must be addressed with legal measures.

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