al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb

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Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb
تنظيم القاعدة في بلاد المغرب الإسلامي
Participant in Insurgency in the Maghreb (2002–present) and the Global War on Terrorism
The black flag variant used by AQIM
Active 2007 (2007)–present
Ideology
Groups
Leaders Abdelmalek Droukdel
Headquarters Kabylie Mountains[3][4]
Area of operations

The Maghreb and the Sahel

Strength 800–1,000+[1][6]
Part of Al-Qaeda
Originated as Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat
Allies
Opponents

State opponents

Non-State Opponents

Battles and wars

Insurgency in the Maghreb

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Arabic: تنظيم القاعدة في بلاد المغرب الإسلامي‎, translit. Tanẓīm al-Qā‘idah fī Bilād al-Maghrib al-Islāmī‎), or AQIM,[9] is an Islamist militant organization which aims to overthrow the Algerian government and institute an Islamic state.[10] To that end, it is currently engaged in an anti-government campaign.

The group originated as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC). It has since declared its intention to attack European (including Spanish and French) and American targets. The group has been designated a terrorist organization by the United Nations, Australia, Canada, Russia, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.

Membership is mostly drawn from the Algerian and local Saharan communities (such as the Tuaregs and Berabiche tribal clans of Mali),[11] as well as Moroccans from city suburbs of the North African country.[12][13][14][15] The leadership are mainly Algerians.[16] The group has also been suspected of having links with the Horn of Africa-based militant group Al-Shabaab.[17]

AQIM has focused on kidnapping for ransom as a means of raising funds and is estimated to have raised more than $50 million in the last decade.[18]

Name[edit]

The group's official name is Organization of al-Qa’ida in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb (Qaedat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Maghrib al-Islami), often shortened to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM, from French al-Qaïda au Maghreb islamique, AQMI).[19] Prior to January 2007 it was known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (Arabic: الجماعة السلفية للدعوة والقتال‎‎ al-Jamā‘ah as-Salafiyyah lid-Da‘wah wal-Qiṭāl) and the French acronym GSPC (Groupe Salafiste pour la Prédication et le Combat).[20]

History[edit]

AQIM fighters in a propaganda video, filmed in the Sahara desert.

In January 2007, the GSPC announced that it would now operate under the name of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).[19][21]

On 19 January 2009, the UK newspaper The Sun reported that there had been an outbreak of bubonic plague at an AQIM training camp in the Tizi Ouzou province in Algeria. According to The Sun, at least forty AQIM militias died from the disease. The surviving AQIM members from the training camp reportedly fled to other areas of Algeria hoping to escape infection.[22] The Washington Times, in an article based on a senior U.S. intelligence official source, claimed a day later that the incident was not related to bubonic plague, but was an accident involving either a biological or chemical agent.[23]

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is one of the region's wealthiest, best-armed militant groups due to the payment of ransom demands by humanitarian organizations and Western governments.[24] It is reported that 90 per cent of AQIM resources come from ransoms paid in return for the release of hostages.[25] Oumar Ould Hamaha said "The source of our financing is the Western countries. They are paying for jihad."[24]

In December 2012, one of AQIM's top commanders, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, split off from AQIM and took his fighters with him, executing the In Amenas hostage crisis in Algeria weeks later, just after France launched Operation Serval in Mali.[26] Belmokhtar later claimed he acted on behalf of Al Qaeda.[27] In December 2015, Belmokhtar's splinter group, Al-Mourabitoun rejoined AQIM, according to audio statements released by both groups.[28]

A top commander of AQIM, Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, was reported killed by French and Chadian forces in northern Mali on February 25, 2013.[29] This was confirmed by AQIM in June 2013.[30]

Alleged prejudice[edit]

The FrontPage Magazine reported that Sub-Saharan Africans are treated with contempt by the predominantly Arab-led AQIM. The AQIM leadership are said to be mainly Algerians, while no Sub-Saharan African is known to possess any leadership position. Robert Fowler, a former Canadian diplomat, who was held hostage by AQIM for 130 days in the Sahara Desert in 2010, wrote that "There was a big gulf in the AQIM between those who were black and those who were not. They preached equality, but did not practice it. Sub-Saharan Africans were clearly second class in the eyes of AQIM."[16] The article went on to say that an AQIM splinter faction, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa separated itself from the group due to the marginalization of its Sub-Saharan African members.[16]

The United States National Counterterrorism Center stated that AQIM had a reputation for holding cultural and racial insensitivities towards Sub-Saharan Africans. The NCTC maintained that some recruits "claimed that AQIM was clearly racist against some black members from West Africa because they were only sent against lower-level targets." The bulletin goes on to say that former AQIM commander Mokhtar Belmokhtar in August 2009 stated “he wanted to attract black African recruits because they would agree more readily than Arabs to becoming suicide bombers and because poor economic and social conditions made them ripe for recruitment.”[4][31]

By 2016, AQIM had reportedly recruited large numbers of young sub-Saharan Africans, with attacks like the 2016 Grand-Bassam shootings in Ivory Coast being carried out by black AQIM members. AQIM commander Yahya Abou el-Hammam, in an interview with a Mauritanian website, was quoted as saying "Today, the mujahideen have built up brigades and battalions with sons of the region, our black brothers, Peuls, Bambaras and Songhai".[32]

International links[edit]

AQIM Tuareg militant in Sahel, December 2012.

Allegations of the former GSPCs links to al-Qaeda predated the September 11 attacks. As followers of a Qutbist strand of Salafist jihadism, the members of the GSPC were thought to share al-Qaeda's general ideological outlook. After the deposition of Hassan Hattab, various leaders of the group pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda.

In November 2007 Nigerian authorities arrested five men for alleged possession of seven sticks of dynamite and other explosives. Nigerian prosecutors alleged that three of the accused had trained for two years with the then Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat in Algeria.[33] In January 2008 the Dakar Rally was cancelled due to threats made by associated terrorist organizations.

In late 2011, the splinter group Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa was founded in order to spread jihadi activities further into West Africa. Their military leader is Omar Ould Hamaha, a former AQIM fighter.[34]

According to U.S. Army General Carter Ham, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the Somalia-based Al-Shabaab, and the Nigeria-based Boko Haram were as of June 2012 attempting to synchronize and coordinate their activities in terms of sharing funds, training and explosives.[17] Ham added that he believed that the collaboration presented a threat to both U.S. homeland security and the local authorities.[26][35] However, according to counter-terrorism specialist Rick Nelson with the Washington-based Center for Strategic International Studies, there was little evidence that the three groups were targeting U.S. areas, as each was primarily interested in establishing fundamentalist administrations in their respective regions.[17]

In a 2013 Al Jazeera interview in Timbuktu, AQIM commander Talha claimed that his movement went to Niger, Algeria, Burkina Faso and Nigeria, to organize cells of AQIM. He explained their strategy: "There are many people who have nothing, and you can reach them by the word of God, or by helping them."[36]

Statements[edit]

AQIM logo.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb operates a media outlet known as al-Andalus, which regularly releases propaganda videos showing AQIM operations, hostages, and statements from members.[37]

According to London-based risk analysis firm Stirling Assynt, AQIM issued a call for vengeance against Beijing for mistreatment of its Muslim minority following the July 2009 Ürümqi riots.[38]

AQIM voiced support for demonstrations against the Tunisian and Algerian Governments in a video released on 13 January 2011. Al Qaeda offered military aid and training to the demonstrators, calling on them to overthrow "the corrupt, criminal and tyrannical" regime, calling for "retaliation" against the Tunisian government, and also calling for the overthrow of Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika. AQIM leader Abu Musab Abdul Wadud appeared in the video, calling for Islamic sharia law to be established in Tunisia.[39] Al Qaeda has begun recruiting anti-government demonstrators, some of whom have previously fought against American forces in Iraq and Israeli forces in Gaza.[40]

AQIM endorsed efforts in Libya to topple the regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, though it remains unclear how many fighters in Libya are loyal to al-Qaeda. Gaddafi seized on the expression of support and help for the rebel movement to blame al-Qaeda for fomenting the uprising.[41]

Timeline of attacks[edit]

2007–09[edit]

  • 11 April 2007: Two car bombs were detonated by the group. One was close to the Prime Minister’s office in Algiers and the blast killed more than 30 people and wounded more than 150.[20]
  • February 2008: Two Austrians were captured in Tunisia and taken via Algeria to Mali and freed later that year, the kidnappings were attributed to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb[42]
  • December 2008: Two Canadian diplomats were taken hostage along with their driver in south-western Niger while on official UN mission to resolve a crisis in northern Niger. The driver was freed in Mali in March 2009. The diplomats were freed in Mali in April 2009. The kidnappings were attributed to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb[42]
  • 22 January 2009: Four Westerners were kidnapped while visiting the Anderamboukane festival in Niger near the border with Mali. AQIM demanded the British government release Abu Qatada, and on 31 May 2009 a statement was released claiming Edwyn Dyer had been executed, which was confirmed by the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on 3 June 2009. All of the other tourists were eventually released.[citation needed]
  • 30 July 2009: At least 11 Algerian soldiers are killed in an ambush while escorting a military convoy outside the coastal town of Damous, near Tipaza.[43]

2010–present[edit]

  • March 2010: an Italian national, Sergio Cicala, and his wife are held hostage. They were released on April 16, 2010.[44][45]
  • 21 March 2010: Three militants are killed by security forces near El Ma Labiod, 35 kilometres (22 mi) from Tebessa.
  • 26 March 2010: Three militants are killed and another captured by security forces in Ait Yahia Moussa, 30 kilometres (19 mi) from Tizi Ouzou.[citation needed]
  • 14 April 2010: According to Algerian officials, at least ten militants are killed during a counter-terrorist operation in Bordj Bou Arreridj wilaya.[citation needed]
  • 16 September 2010: seven employees from Areva and Vinci are kidnapped in Arlit, Niger (five French, one Togolese and one Malagasy). The capture was claimed on 21 September by AQIM in a communiqué published in Al Jazeera. Three of the hostages were released on 24 February 2011. The other four were released on 28 October 2013.[46][47][48]
  • 25 November 2011: Three Western tourists were abducted in Timbuktu, including Sjaak Rijke from the Netherlands, Johan Gustafsson from Sweden and Stephen Malcolm McGown from South Africa. A fourth tourist, from Germany, was killed when he refused to cooperate with the perpetrators. Rijke was rescued in April 2015.[49][50]
  • 9 December 2011: AQIM published two photos, showing five kidnapped persons of European descent including the three tourists abducted in Timbuktu. French hostage Philippe Verdon was killed in March 2013. His body was found in July 2013. French hostage Serge Lazarevic was released on December 9. 2013.[51][52][53][54]
  • 30 September 2013: AQIM claimed responsibility for a suicide car bombing in Timbuktu that killed at least two civilians.[55]
  • 20 November 2015: AQIM and Al-Mourabitoun attacked a hotel in Bamako, Mali. They took more than 100 persons hostage, killing 19 before the siege was ended by security forces.[56]
  • 15 January 2016: AQIM gunmen attack the Capuccino and Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou, killing at least 28 people, wounding at least 56 and taking a total of 126 hostages.[57][58]
  • 13 March 2016: AQIM attacked the town of Grand-Bassam, in the Ivory Coast, killing at least 16 people, including 2 soldiers, and 4 European tourists. 6 assailants were also killed.[59][60]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)". Council on Foreign Relations. 27 March 2015. Retrieved 2 July 2015. 
  2. ^ "Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb". Stanford University. 13 January 2013. Retrieved 2 July 2015. 
  3. ^ "North Africa's Menace" (PDF). RAND Corporation. Retrieved 16 July 2015. 
  4. ^ a b "Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb" (PDF). Centre for Strategic and International Studies. September 2011. Retrieved 16 July 2015. 
  5. ^ a b "AL-QA'IDA IN THE LANDS OF THE ISLAMIC MAGHREB (AQIM)". National Counter-terrorist Center. Retrieved 2 July 2015. 
  6. ^ "Profile: Al-Qaeda in North Africa". BBC. 17 January 2013. Retrieved 2 July 2015. 
  7. ^ https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R43558.pdf
  8. ^ "Bay'ah to Baghdadi: Foreign Support for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the Islamic State (Part 2)". 27 September 2014. Retrieved 17 November 2014. 
  9. ^ Watson, Bob. "Algeria blasts fuel violence fears", BBC News, 11 April 2007. Retrieved 22 April 2007.Jean-Pierre Filiu, "Local and global jihad: Al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghrib", The Middle East Journal, Vol.b63, Spring 2009.
  10. ^ "Algeria". CIA. Retrieved 17 January 2013. 
  11. ^ http://minerva.marinecorpsuniversity.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Al_Qaida_Body_LOWRES2.pdf
  12. ^ Dario Cristiani; Riccardo Fabiani (April 2011). "Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM): Implications for Algeria's Regional and International Relations" (PDF). IAI Working Papers. Retrieved 17 January 2013. 
  13. ^ Morocco dismantles AQIM cell Magharebia, 26 December 2012
  14. ^ Morocco dismantles terror recruitment cell Magharebia, 27 November 2012
  15. ^ Morocco nabs members of AQIM cell Upi.com, 5 January 2011
  16. ^ a b c "AL-QAEDA'S ANTI-BLACK RACISM". FrontPage Magazine. 4 February 2013. Retrieved 16 July 2015. 
  17. ^ a b c "African Terrorist Groups Starting to Cooperate, U.S. Says". Bloomberg L.P. 25 June 2012. 
  18. ^ Corera, Gordon (14 January 2013). "Islamists pose threat to French interests in Africa". BBC. Retrieved 20 January 2013. 
  19. ^ a b "THE GSPC Newest Franchise in Al-Qa'ida's Global Jihad". Combating Terrorism Center. 2 April 2007. 
  20. ^ a b Steinberg, Guido; Isabelle Werenfels (November 2007). "Between the 'Near' and the 'Far' Enemy: Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb". Mediterranean Politics. 12 (3): 407–13. doi:10.1080/13629390701622473. 
  21. ^ "Brand al-Qaeda". Sydney Morning Herald. 28 January 2007. Archived from the original on 17 December 2007. 
  22. ^ West, Alex, "Deadliest Weapon So Far...The Plague", The Sun, 19 January 2009.
  23. ^ Lake, Eli (20 January 2009). "Al Qaeda Bungles Arms Experiment". Washington Times. p. 1. 
  24. ^ a b Nossiter, Adam; Baume, Maïa de la (13 December 2012). "Kidnappings Fuel Extremists In West Africa". The New York Times. p. A1. Retrieved 13 December 2012. 
  25. ^ Sidibé, Kalilou (August 2012). "Security Management in Northern Mali: Criminal Networks and Conflict Resolution" (PDF). Institute of Development Studies. Retrieved 17 March 2014. 
  26. ^ a b Aronson, Samuel (28 April 2014). "AQIM's Threat to Western Interests in the Africa's Sahel". Combating Terrorism Center Sentinel (CTC), West Point. 
  27. ^ "ICCT". Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  28. ^ "Mali extremists join with al-Qaida-linked North Africa group". Associated Press. 4 December 2015. Retrieved 4 December 2015. 
  29. ^ "Al Qaeda confirms Abou Zeid killed in Mali". Inquirer. Nouakchott. AFP. 4 March 2013. Retrieved 10 March 2013. 
  30. ^ "Africa – AQIM confirms Zeid died in Mali battle". France 24. Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  31. ^ "Terrorism Bulletin Says Highlighting Al Qaeda Racism Could Deter African Recruits". abc News. 24 July 2010. Retrieved 16 July 2015. 
  32. ^ "Jihadist recruiters cast wide net in West Africa". AFP. 18 March 2016. Retrieved 16 April 2016. 
  33. ^ "Five Nigerians on terror charges". BBC News. 23 November 2007. Retrieved 23 April 2010. 
  34. ^ Thiolay, Boris (3–9 October 2012). "Le djihad du "Barbu rouge"". L'Express (in French). pp. 40–41. 
  35. ^ "Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, and Al-Shabaab 'merge'". Hurriyet Daily News. 26 June 2012. 
  36. ^ "Orphans of the Sahara, part two, from minute 28.30". Al Jazeera. January 16, 2014 [interview dates from Spring 2013]. 
  37. ^ "Al Qaeda opens first official Twitter account". Washington Times. 27 September 2013. Retrieved 23 December 2014. 
  38. ^ "China demands Turkish retraction". BBC News. 14 July 2009. Retrieved 14 July 2009. 
  39. ^ ennahar (14 January 2011). "Al-Qaeda supports the events in Tunisia and Algeria". Ennaharonline/ M. O. Retrieved 15 January 2011. 
  40. ^ Adem Amine in Algiers and Jamel Arfaoui in Tunis for Magharebia (13 January 2011). "AQIM leader exploits Tunisia, Algeria unrest". Magharebia. Retrieved 15 January 2011. 
  41. ^ Cruickshank, Paul (25 February 2011). "Libya: An opportunity for al Qaeda?". CNN International. Archived from the original on 25 February 2011. Retrieved 27 February 2011. 
  42. ^ a b "West's made-up terror links to blame for killing". The Independent. 4 June 2009. Retrieved 20 January 2013. 
  43. ^ Yahoo! Search – Web Search[dead link]
  44. ^ "Italian held by Qaeda makes plea to Berlusconi govt I". Inquirer. 28 February 2010. Retrieved 20 January 2013. 
  45. ^ "BBC News - Al-Qaeda frees abducted Italian couple in Mali". Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  46. ^ "Al-Qaeda branch warns France". Al Jazeera. 19 November 2010. Retrieved 20 January 2013. 
  47. ^ "Niger: 3 Hostages From French Mine Are Released". The New York Times. 26 February 2011. Retrieved 25 May 2016. 
  48. ^ CNN Staff (29 October 2013). "4 French hostages released in Niger, President says". CNN. Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  49. ^ "Al Qaeda Hostage Sjaak Rijke Freed by French Forces in Mali". NBC News. Retrieved 20 May 2015. 
  50. ^ Holly Yan and David McKenzie; CNN (2 December 2015). "Charity: Videos show hostages abducted in Mali still alive". CNN. Retrieved 25 May 2016. 
  51. ^ Agence Nouakchott d'Information (ANI) 9 December 2011
  52. ^ "Al-Qaeda Media Arm to Answer Questions on Twitter". Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  53. ^ "BBC News - French Mali hostage Philippe Verdon confirmed dead". BBC News. Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  54. ^ "Serge Lazarevic: Mali confirms militants freed for French hostage". BBC News. Retrieved 20 May 2015. 
  55. ^ "News – msn". Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  56. ^ Searcey, Dionne; Nossiternov, Adam (20 November 2015). "Deadly Siege Ends After Assault on Hotel in Mali". International New York Times. Retrieved 21 November 2015. 
  57. ^ "Ouagadougou blasts: Burkina Faso capital hit by gunfire". BBC News. Retrieved 15 January 2016. 
  58. ^ "Burkina Faso attack: Foreigners killed at luxury hotel". BBC News. Retrieved 25 May 2016. 
  59. ^ Michael Pearson; Mariano Castillo; Tiffany Ap and Tim Hume; CNN (13 March 2016). "Ivory Coast attack: 16 killed as gunmen strike hotels – CNN.com". CNN. Retrieved 25 May 2016. 
  60. ^ "Al Qaeda claims responsibility for Ivory Coast hotel shooting in which 16 'including four Europeans' killed at resort". Telegraph.co.uk. 14 March 2016. Retrieved 25 May 2016. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Atwan, Abdel Bari (2008). The Secret History of Al Qaeda. University of California Press. pp. 222–249. 
  • Boeke, Sergei (2016). "Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb: Terrorism, Insurgency or Organized Crime?". Small Wars and Insurgencies. 27 (5): 914–936. 
  • Buss, Terry F.; Buss, Nathaniel J.; Picard, Louis A. (2011). Al-Qaeda in Africa: The Threat and Response. African Security and the African Command: Viewpoints on the US Role in Africa. Kumarian Press. pp. 193–200. 
  • Lecocq, Baz; Schrijver, Paul (2007). "The War on Terror in a Haze of Dust: Potholes and Pitfalls on the Saharan Front". Journal of Contemporary African Studies. 25 (1): 141–166. doi:10.1080/02589000601157147. 
  • Torres-Soriano, Manuel R. (2010). The Road to Media Jihad: The Propaganda Actions of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Terrorism and Political Violence Volume 23, Issue 1. pp. 72–88. 
  • Wilkinson, Henry (2013). "Reversal of fortune: AQIM's stalemate in Algeria and its new front in the Sahel". Global Security Risks and West Africa: Development Challenges. OECD Publishing. ISBN 978-92-64-11066-3. 

External links[edit]