Membership of Aqim surged over past two years
The head of the French domestic intelligence agency claims al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Aqim, has as many as 400 members with France one of the main countries targetted by the group. In an interview with Le Monde newspaper, Bernard Squarcini says the number of members has more than doubled over the past two years with a central core of between 150 to 200 men.
Aqim has been holding four French citizens captured in northern Niger hostage since September 2010 as well an Italian woman kidnapped on 2 February this year in southern Algeria.
The organisation, formerly the Algeria-based GSPC, also has bases in Mali and operates in several countries in sub-Saharan Africa where it has carried out a number of kidnappings and is allegedly involved in numerous forms of trafficking.
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