Gold panning in northern Mali may be benefiting extremists

KIDAL, Mali (AP) — A gold rush is underway in an area of northern Mali where al-Qaida-linked militants operate. It raises concerns that new profits from the artisanal mining could benefit not only the local economy but also Islamic extremists. A coalition of armed Tuareg rebels controls the Kidal region and its leaders are also overseeing gold-panning activities. Some members are believed to have close ties to the local al-Qaida affiliate known as JNIM. It is considered the most active of the extremist groups in the West African nation where attacks against the military and communities have soared.