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WASHINGTON – Jihadists have teamed up with elements of the terrorist group al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, and have moved into northern Mali where it has established safe havens and are starting to train other AQIM fighters in Timbuktu, according to a report in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

Sources in the area say that some of the jihadists out of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria are going around Timbuktu and various towns seeking recruits.

Analyst Sid Ahmed Ould Tfeil told The Long War Journal, a blog that reports on terrorism, that conditions in Timbuktu are similar to that of Afghanistan and Pakistan, which became centers in the 1990s for al-Qaida to recruit jihadists from around the world.

“Northern Mali today is the next alternative for Afghanistan where the terrorists have suffered heavy losses before and after the killing of bin Laden because of the role played by drones and international forces in countering terrorism there,” he said.

Tfeil now sees elements of Boko Haram from Nigeria joining the various other foreign elements.

In addition, there are reports that a vast area in the Sahel now is under terrorist control. Sources now see jihadists controlling an area across the Sahara Desert and the Sahel zone that amounts to an area four times the size of France.

The various jihadist groups are said to be moving weapons and drugs, taking hostages and planning attacks. This means that Islamist groups are moving across territory that stretches from western Algeria to the border between Libya and Chad in the east and into the northern part of Nigeria to the south.

Along with northern Mali, al-Qaida is making its presence known in Yemen, Somalia, Egyptian Sinai and now Syria.

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