Al-Qaida's North African branch has expanded recruitment efforts, even as it faces increased military cooperation by regional governments, according a news site run by the United States Africa Command. In particular, Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb [AQIM] has focused on building its membership in the wild areas in between Africa's Saharan nations.
"Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has been organizing exhortatory and religious lectures that end with inviting people to engage in holy war, especially the young people," said a local Mauritanian trader, Sidi Mohamed, who frequently crossed the border into Mali.
"The lectures started being organised just before the latest attack of the Mauritanian army. But after the attack of the army on al-Qaeda in the Wagadou Forest [in late June], it carried on organizing lectures," he said. "What was surprising, is that the lectures were taking place close to the Malian military barracks, and even in front of the Malian gendarmerie at a few meters away sometimes."
Another witness, Malian Oumar Ould Brahim described how he saw terrorist recruitment as a trader in country's weekly markets.
"They were asking people to engage in jihad and read poems for Osama bin Laden, for his jihad in the name of God, and they were asking young Mauritanians 'Why don't you give yourself to God and struggle in his name'," Ould Brahim recounted, noting that some of the terrorists were carrying camcorders to film their efforts.
"In a Malian village called Laranp, al-Qaeda gave a lecture to the residents and the people visiting the weekly market just 700 metres from the barracks of the Malian gendarmerie, as they were watching the elements of the armed organisation from the balconies of the building," he added. This shocked local residents, particularly women who were not wearing head coverings, and gave him the impression that Malian forces weren't serious about fighting AQIM.
AQIM's terrorist recruitment has become particularly common in Mali. "[It] is no longer a matter of debate because all the residents of those areas are witnesses of it," said local terrorism specialist Bechir Ould Babana