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ALGIERS (Reuters) - Intelligence reports show there is coordination between the Nigerian Islamist sect Boko Haram and the Algerian-based north African branch of al Qaeda, the Algerian deputy foreign minister said on Sunday.
Boko Haram has killed dozens of people in Nigeria, and Western security experts say any link-up with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) could make it a more potent threat, especially to Nigeria's energy sector.
"We have no doubts that coordination exists between Boko Haram and al Qaeda," Abdelkader Messahel told reporters. "The way both groups operate and intelligence reports show that there is cooperation."
AQIM grew out of a conflict in Algeria between the government and Islamist militants. In the past few years it has expanded its activities to include Mali, Niger and Mauritania but was not thought to have reached as far south as Nigeria.
Algeria's assessment of ties between AQIM and Boko Haram carries authority because Algeria has the biggest intelligence-gathering operation on al Qaeda of any country in the region.
It tallies with the view of some in the Nigerian military, who say Boko Haram is increasingly linking up with global jihadist movements.
The sect said it had carried out multiple gun and bomb attacks that killed 65 people in and around the Nigerian city of Damaturu earlier this month in its deadliest attack yet.
Boko Haram also said it was behind a suicide bomb attack on the United Nations building in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, in August this year. At least 23 people were killed and 76 injured in the attack.
It was the first known use in Nigeria of suicide bombing, a tactic commonly used by AQIM inside Algeria.
The Algerian deputy foreign minister said that in light of the ties between Boko Haram and AQIM, Nigerian officials were scheduled to attend a regional summit in Mauritania in December to coordinate the fight against al Qaeda.
Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Tim Pearce