KIDAL, Mali (AP) — A gold rush is underway in an area of northern Mali where al-Qaida-linked fighters are active, raising concerns that profits from artisanal mining could benefit not only the local economy but also Islamic extremists.

A coalition of armed Tuareg rebels known as the CMA controls the Kidal region and its leaders oversee the gold-panning activities. Some CMA 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 deadly attacks against the military and communities have soared.

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