The January 2013 French intervention in northern Mali has severely degraded the military capabilities of militant organizations, disrupted their organisational capacities and destroyed many of their sanctuaries. But as violent extremists are being subdued in one area, new hot spots of confrontation are emerging. When forced out of one of their safe havens, transnational terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) just disappear into other peripheral zones of tension. This paper examines how chaotic environments in North Africa are giving new breathing space to a splintered terrorist organisation. Chastened by its many blunders in northern Mali, an off-balance AQIM is trying to shift gear, focusing less on becoming the face of local militancy in North Africa and more on stealthily parasiting local militant organisations without dominating them.