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WASHINGTON – Recent attacks by Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb in northern Mali may well represent an overall strategy by al-Qaida central – headed by Ayman al-Zawahiri – to build a stage in northern Africa to launch attacks into Western Europe, informed sources said in a report by Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

Initial reports showed indigenous Islamist radical groups attacking key cities in Mali, an escalation of violence that prompted France to commit special forces to route them.

France not only had the backing of the U.N. Security Council and the African Union but also of European Union officials who are taking seriously the threats by al-Qaida to target Europe. This comes after Islamist militants in Mali threatened to launch attacks inside France itself.

Mali once was a French colony. There are many Muslim Malians residing in France, making such a threat possible.

French commando attacks in Mali have prompted other Islamist groups in neighboring Algeria to take foreign hostages at a major joint Algerian British Petroleum natural gas facility at In Amenas, near Libya.

The hostages were taken after the government allowed French overflights of fighters to attack the Islamist radical strongholds in northern Mali, where battles continue.

Sources say that with Islamists coalescing forces in Mali and direct French involvement the conflict could morph into France’s Afghanistan, with no end-game in sight.

The U.S. has offered help to the French, which could draw America into another protracted war. So far, the U.S. has provided only intelligence and logistical airlift support for troops from neighboring African Union countries that are joining French forces against the Islamists.

Without notifying any country, including the U.S., Algerian security forces sought to take back the facility, resulting in the deaths of many of the hostages. An estimated 80 died in the attack.

Sources say that many of the splinter Islamist groups have united behind AQIM, which is asserting its influence from Libya to Algeria across North Africa and down into Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad.

AQIM aims to overthrow the Algerian government and set up an Islamic Emirates. The group has vowed to attack Algerian, Spanish, French and American targets, although the most recent attack on the sprawling In Amenas gas field included Japanese and British hostages, who similarly were killed.

The raid on the facility was led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who launched the attack in the name of AQIM. Belmokhtar said he would only negotiate with Western countries if the French and others leave Mali.

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