Dysfunctional states breeding extremism in Middle East, Africa

CAIRO - The political vacuum left by toppled dictatorships in the Middle East and Africa has created a breeding ground for religious extremism, and restoring the rule of law in affected areas has now become a necessary step in the global fight against terrorism.

Libya has been torn apart by a bitter civil war between militia groups. The North African country has seen a large influx of arms and ammunition since 2011, and some warring groups are led by members of the previous military and police.

Central government officials have fled to the northeast, while Islamic extremists have taken control of the capital city of Tripoli and declared independence from the official regime. Peace negotiations brokered by the United Nations started in Geneva in mid-January, but major groups have snubbed the talks and continue to fight.

Some of the religious factions have declared their allegiance to Islamic State militants. One faction affiliated with the fast-growing terrorist group claimed responsibility for a Tuesday attack on a luxury hotel in Tripoli. The attack killed nine, including American and French nationals.

Yemen has also faced political chaos after the collapse of its dictatorship in November 2011. The country's American-backed government crumbled on Jan. 20, with President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi stepping down, after Shiite rebels stormed the capital and sieged the presidential palace. Much uncertainty remains about how the coup will end.

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