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A nation must think before it acts.
The control of northern Mali in 2012 by Tuareg rebels and Islamist fighters aligned with al Qaeda proved a serious challenge to Western counterterrorism policies. This article looks at several aspects often overlooked in discussions of the internal dynamics of al Qaeda-linked groups. Using defections related to the al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) offshoot group, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), in Mali as a case study, this article considers the issues of race and legitimacy connected to the group and the threat and policy implications that flow from this analysis.