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US commander sees al Qaeda Africa group strengthening

Two high-profile strikes in West Africa since November by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) could further strengthen the Islamist militant group, a US commander for North and West Africa said.
AQIM, a militant group that emerged from the Algerian civil war in the 1990s and is now mostly north Mali-based, is emerging from a period of near dormancy marked by factional infighting.
The group, linked to veteran jihadist Mokhtar Belmokhtar, claimed two hotel sieges in the Mali and Burkina Faso capitals in November and January that killed dozens, including many Westerners, proving its ability to strike further south.
Some experts say the urban attacks, and a slew of recent propaganda, may be a bid to compete with ultra-hardline group Islamic State, which now has a base in Libya.
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