Western and Arab intelligence sources claim that Al-Qaeda is building secret bases in Mali's Sahara desert region, particularly in the north, and the area near the Algerian border, with the help of Algerian extremists. Regional intelligence spotted an influx of Islamic extremists from Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan, concluding that Algerian extremist groups were helping them relocate to the Sahara.
The Sahara, stretching between Mauritania and southern Libya, is only loosely patrolled by the forces of Algeria, Libya, Niger, Mauritania and Mali. For instance, Mali rejected a French demand that it crack down on people trafficking organizations that help illegal immigrants reach Europe and North America, arguing that such immigrants send home $65 million a year in remittances.
The French Ministry of the Interior has estimated that there about 120,000 Malian immigrants in France, 60 percent there illegally. There are also large Malian immigrant communities in the United States, Spain and Italy. - Adam Geibel
Mali/Algerian Sahara map, online at: