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Al-Qaeda-linked militants a growing threat in North Africa

MAIDUGURI/AOMAR OUALI: In the wake of recent terrorist attacks in Algeria, there are increasing reports that indicate that Al-Qaeda-linked militants and other terrorist groups are gaining influence in North Africa.
In northern Algeria, a security official says gunmen attacked a gas pipeline, killing two guards but were driven off.
The gunmen fired homemade mortars late Sunday at the Ain Chikh pipeline near Djebahia, 120 kilometers southeast of the capital, Algiers.
Army units are searching for the attackers, the official added, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press.
The site, which was last attacked in May 2011, is on the southern edge of the Kabylie region. That’s the last hideout for Al-Qaeda in Algeria, which has largely been defeated in the north.
Al-Qaeda-linked militants took dozens of foreigners hostage at a southern gas plant two weeks ago, a confrontation that left at least 37 hostages and 29 militants dead.
In a separate incident, gunmen killed eight people in a town in remote northeastern Nigeria over the weekend, witnesses said, in an area plagued by a militant insurgency and armed banditry.
A spokesman for joint military and police forces in Borno state, the epicenter of a campaign of violence by the violent sect Boko Haram, Lt. Col. Sagir Musa, confirmed the attack on Gajigana town but did not have any further details.
Modu Bukar, a trader in the town, saw the bodies after the attack, which sent panicked residents fleeing, adding that he had heard gunshots during the attack.
Remote northeastern Borno state, which shares porous borders with Cameroon, Niger and Chad, on the threshold of the Sahara, has suffered increasing lawlessness since Boko Haram launched an uprising against the government in 2009.
The sect has become the number one security headache to Africa’s leading oil and gas producer.
Gunmen killed 23 people in northern Nigeria last week in attacks targeting gamblers and people selling bush meat that the militants disapprove of.
Militants have killed several hundred people in the past three years in a campaign to impose sharia, Islamic law, on religiously mixed Nigeria, Africa’s most populace country. Their targets include the security forces and churches.

A general breakdown of law and order in the areas where the sect operates has also created space for armed criminal networks and ethnic militias with scores to settle, both of which sometimes kill dozens in overnight attacks.