Official: US bolstering ties to pressure AQIM

6th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

The US is strengthening its cooperation with France and other European countries in order to continue to pressure Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, a top US terrorism official told Congress on Thursday.

"We are increasing our coordination with France and other European partners to constrain the environment in which Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb operates, by strengthening governance in northern Mali," said Daniel Benjamin, the US State Department's coordinator for counterterrorism.

Benjamin's comments to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs came just four days after the death of Osama bin Laden, who was shot and killed by US commandos in a middle-of-the-night raid on his compound in Pakistan.

Officials in the West African nation of Mali are worried that bin Laden's death could further radicalize the Maghreb terrorist group, known by the initials AQIM.

Mali's minister of foreign affairs, Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga, told the French newspaper Le Monde earlier this week that "from his perspective, AQIM no longer has its main source of ideological or operational inspiration, but at the same time, his death increases the risk in the short-term that things may get out of control."

Mark Koumans, the US Department of Homeland Security's deputy assistant secretary for international affairs, told the House panel that the death of bin Laden was not a time for diminishing US vigilance.

"Bin Laden's death is not the end of our security effort," he said.

© 2011 AFP

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