Al-Qaida using Mali crisis to expand, France warns

PARIS/BAMAKO - France warned on Wednesday the seizure of northern Mali by a Tuareg-led rebellion was playing into the hands of local al-Qaida units, urging neighbors including Algeria to do more to tackle the threat.
For long one of the most stable democracies in West Africa, Mali has plunged into turmoil since a widely condemned March 22 coup that emboldened Tuareg rebels in their quest for a northern homeland.
They have been joined by Islamists bent on imposing Islamic sharia law across the whole of the moderate Muslim state, the latest security worry for a region battling organized crime and home-grown militant groups such as Nigeria's Boko Haram.
"We fear that in this confused situation al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) will take advantage of the situation to expand its perimeter of activity and strengthen the terrorist threat," French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said.
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