In northern Mali, the Islamist rebels are motivated in large part by religion. Al-Qaida fighters chant Quranic verses under the Sahara sun , displaying deep, ideological commitment. They consider north Mali as ‘‘Islamic territory’’ and say they will fight to the death to defend it. They also want to use the territory to expand the reach of al-Qaida-linked groups to other countries. This would seem to make other countries more motivated to intervene in Mali than in Central African Republic, but the challenges are so steep and convoluted that an intervention mission is still on the drawing board.
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