Bamako (Mali), Apr 5 (ANI): The Al-Qaeda is reportedly taking advantage of the political turmoil in Mali, which has seen the government overthrown in a military coup and Tuareg rebels seize key cities in the north, by creating 'safe heavens' in the country.
Three senior leaders of the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the North African affiliate of the terrorist group, reportedly met in Mali on Monday.
According to religious and security sources, three Algerians, Abou Zeid, Mokhtar Belmokhtar and Yahya Abou Al-Hammam, held talks with the Tuareg rebels who had captured Timbuktu the previous day, Sky News reports.
Local resident have claimed that the group's leader Iyad Ag Ghaly has set up base at Timbuktu's military camp.
According to the report, his fighters put up their black jihadist flag across the city, where female residents were said to have started wearing headscarves, as Ag Ghaly attempted to introduce Sharia, or Islamic law.
Incidents of rapes and looting have also reportedly emerged from the city.
AQIM, which came forward from the Algerian Salafist movement in 2007, has taken advantage of weak governance and poverty across the region to mount sporadic attacks on local armies and kidnap Westerners.
According to a British security think-tank, the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi), a weakened Al-Qaeda is trying to use Saharan and sub-Saharan Africa to 'reunite and re-energise'.
A report by Rusi said that the Al-Qaeda is exploiting local grievances through its proxies to secure a 'stable foothold' in the region. (ANI)
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