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Al-Qaida’s affiliate in Africa has been a shadowy presence for nearly a decade, operating out of Mali’s lawless northern desert. They did not come out into the open until this April, when a coup by disgruntled soldiers in Bamako caused the country to tip into chaos. The extremists took advantage of the power vacuum, pushing into the main towns in the north, and seizing more than half of Mali’s territory, an area larger than Afghanistan.
Turbaned fighters now control all the major northern cities, carrying out beatings, floggings and amputations in public squares just as the Taliban did.
Associated Press writers Jamey Keaten and Lori Hinnant in Paris, Brahima Ouedraogo in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, and Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report.
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