Despite US training and support, West African nations have been unable to stamp out the terrorist group and the upheaval in Libya may be bolstering the group's arsenal.
Freetown, Sierra Leone
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Eleven days ago, a firefight broke out in a remote corner of Mali, a sparsely populated desert nation in the heart of West Africa.
On one side of the battle were Mauritanian soldiers whose military has been trained by the United States. On the other: armed members of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, a terrorist group inspired by Al Qaeda that’s developed a reputation for abducting and sometimes killing Westerners in the region.
Seventeen people died in the fighting, which lasted for several hours on the evening of June 24. The target of the raid – a heavily fortified terrorist camp – was obliterated, officials said.
It wasn’t the first time the two sides have come head to head. Regional governments have been targeting the terrorist group, which is known by its acronym, AQIM, for more than six years. But their efforts, which some critics say are lackluster, haven’t yet managed to cripple the terrorist group. Meanwhile, tourism in the region has evaporated and violence in Libya could be making AQIM stronger.