Al Qaeda in North Africa is the rising star of the global terrorist network. The militants in Yemen and Iraq may have stolen the headlines in recent years, but a coalition of militant cells known as the "Al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb" (AQIM) is actually one of Al Qaeda's wealthiest branches.
While we were looking elsewhere, AQIM patiently extended its operations from Algeria deep into the desert Sahel region, making millions through kidnappings and smuggling in the vast ungoverned territory that spans across Mauritania, Mali and Niger.
AQIM has also been smart at picking friends. It has close links with some of the ethnic Tuareg tribes which in March 2012 took over all of northern Mali.
This puts AQIM within grasp of creating a base in a failed state, the very dream of every aspiring Al Qaeda branch!
Photo via the Longwarjournal.com