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The issue of international intervention in Mali has been in the headlines since an army coup last summer gave extremists and Tuareg tribal rebels the chance to drive the country’s military out of the vast desert north, creating a potential safe haven for al Qaeda terrorists.

In Belmokhtar’s message Dec. 5 announcing that he was breaking away from the al Qaeda affiliate in North Africa and forming his own terrorist group, he specifically warned the international community against intervening in Mali, Mr. Venzke said.

Belmokhtar’s new group “is believed to still maintain a relationship with AQIM,” he said. “However, the exact nature of that relationship is unknown.”

AQIM and affiliated terrorist groups, such as Belmokhtar’s, have specialized in kidnappings in recent years, generally seizing European tourists or aid workers and other soft targets. They have reaped millions of dollars in ransom to finance their activities.

The al Qaeda group also has global ambitions, but in recent years, security services have broken up its cells in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland.

“The network has planted deep roots in Europe,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Edward R. Royce, California Republican, said Wednesday.

In Mali, where extremists control the desert north, AQIM and associated groups “are imposing the strictest interpretation of Islamic law — banning music and chopping off limbs,” he added.

“Large amounts of weapons are flowing into the region,” Mr. Royce said.

Mrs. Nuland said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke by telephone Wednesday morning with Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal and the U.S. ambassador in Algeria, Henry S. Ensher. State Department officials also had been in touch with BP PLC headquarters in London.