'Al Qaeda's branch AQIM gaining stronghold in North Africa'

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Washington, Dec 18 (ANI): A video obtained from North African security services has revealed some of the first images of Al Qaeda's growing African branch known as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb or AQIM.

The revelation has come as the peace talks, mediated by the United Nations, continue in New York between Morocco and Polisario Front officials over the future of Africa's longest running territorial dispute in the Western Sahara, a region that analysts say is increasingly becoming a hot bed of Al Qaeda activity.

A former Spanish colony in the north west of Africa, Western Sahara was annexed by Morocco 35 years ago which led to years of violent attacks against Morocco by the main Western Sahara independence group called The Polisario Front. This situation lasted until a United Nations brokered cease-fire in 1991. However, no agreement has been reached so far on this matter.

According to analysts, the lack of an agreement is encouraging Al Qaeda to use the region as a base for recruiting new members and planning attacks.

"Al Qaeda is very pragmatic in its moves. Eventually it moves like a strategic force even though it is made of small cells and networks. In fact its aim is to reach the Atlantic from the Sahara. They spoke about it in their chat rooms. Hence trying to offer their services to the Polisario or even penetrating it are part of its strategy," Fox News quoted Walid Phares, a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington, as saying.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which was founded in Algeria has a long and deadly record of attacks in the region. In 2007 they were behind a double suicide bombing in the Algerian capital that killed 41 people, including 17 United Nations workers.

Reports also describe AQIM being behind a failed attempt to sink US ships off Gibraltar, bomb the US embassy in Mali, and also carrying out numerous kidnappings of foreign nationals and deadly attacks against countries in the region. (ANI)

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