DAKAR - Al-Qaida's affiliate in North Africa is the militant organization's richest faction and the dominant Islamist force among those controlling northern Mali, the head of the US military's Africa Command (AFRICOM) said on Thursday.
General Carter Ham said the international community and the Malian government now faced a complex challenge to try to deal with the strengthened presence in Mali's largely desert north of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the militant group's North African franchise.
Mali, for a long time seen as a stable nation in an often turbulent West African region, imploded in the space of a few weeks after a March 22 coup sowed confusion and allowed a mix of Tuareg separatists and Islamist rebels to occupy the northern two-thirds of the country.
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