Al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb

Al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb

Infobox War Faction
name=al-Qaeda Organisation in the Islamic Maghreb
war=Islamic insurgency in Algeria (2002-present)

caption=AQIM militants in 2007.
leaders=Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud
area=Algeria, North Africa
previous=Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat
The al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb [Watson, Rob. " [ Algeria blasts fuel violence fears] ", BBC News, 04-11-2007. Retrieved 04-22-2007.] , previously known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat ( _ar. الجماعة السلفية للدعوة والقتال (al-jamaa`atu l-salafiyyatu li l-da`wati wa l-qitaal); _fr. Groupe Salafiste pour la Prédication et le Combat, GSPC; also known as Group for Call and Combat) is an Islamist militia which aims to overthrow the Algerian government and institute an Islamic state. To that end, it is currently engaged in an insurgent campaign.

The group has declared its intention to attack Algerian, French, and American targets. It has been designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S. Department of State, and similarly classed as a terrorist organization by the European Union.


The GSPC was founded by Hassan Hattab, a former Armed Islamic Group (GIA) regional commander who broke with the GIA in 1998 in protest over the GIA's slaughter of civilians. After an amnesty in 1999, many former GIA fighters laid down their arms, but a few remained active, including members of the GSPC. [ Islamism, Violence and Reform in Algeria: Turning the Page (Islamism in North Africa III)] International Crisis Group Report, 30 July 2004] Estimates of the number of GSPC members vary widely, from a few hundred to as many as 4000. [ BBC Documentary] about increased US military focus on the Sahara region. August 2005.] In September 2003, it was reported that Hattab had been deposed as national emir of the GSPC and replaced by Nabil Sahraoui (Sheikh Abou Ibrahim Mustapha), a 39 year-old former GIA commander who was subsequently reported to have pledged the GSPC's allegiance to al-Qaeda, [ Algerian group backs al-Qaeda] , BBC News, 23 October 2003] a step which Hattab had opposed. [ Interview with the Former Leader of the Salafist Group for Call and Combat] , "Ash-Sharq al-Awsat", 17 October 2005] Following the death of Sahraoui in June 2004, Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud became the leader of the GSPC. [ Interview with Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud, commander of the GSPC] , 26 September 2005 ( website) (pdf)] Abdelmadjid Dichou is also reported to have headed the group. [" [ Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC)] ", Terrorist Organizations, World Statesman. Retrieved 09-08-2007.]

A splinter or separate branch of Hattab's group, the Free Salafist Group (GSL), headed by El Para, has been linked with the kidnapping of 32 European tourists in Algeria in early 2003. Numerous other sources clearly illustrate the involvement of the Algerian intelligence services in exaggerating the claims about terrorist threats in the Sahara and the supposed alliance between this group and Al-Qaeda. Much about the mythology surrounding El Para is also attributed to the Algerian government who he possible works for, and it is also contended that certain key events (such as kidnappings) were set-up, and finally that the resulting hype stems from a campaign of deception and disinformation led by the Algerian government, and perpetuated by the media. [ El Para, the Maghreb’s Bin Laden - who staged the tourist kidnappings?] by Salima Mellah and Jean-Baptiste Rivoire, Le Monde Diplomatique, February 2005, and the writings of Jeremy Keenan, such as]

By March 2005, some sources argued that the GSPC "may be prepared to give up the armed struggle in Algeria and accept the government's reconciliation initiative." [Georges Rassi, "End ofInsurgency", "al-Mustaqbal", as reported in "MidEast Mirror", 24 March 2005. Quoted in [ Islamist Terrorism in the Sahel: Fact or Fiction?] ] . In March 2006, the group's former leader, Hassan Hattab, called on its members to accept a government amnesty under which they can lay down their guns in return for immunity from prosecution. [ Top Algerian Islamist slams Qaeda group, urges peace] , Reuters, 30 March 2006] However, in September of 2006 the top Al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri announced a "blessed union" between the groups in declaring France an enemy. They said they would work together against French and American interests."Al-Qaida joins Algerians against France", AP, 14 September 2006] In January 2007, the group announced a formal change of name to al-Qaeda. [ Brand al-Qaeda] , "Sydney Morning Herald", 28 January 2007]

peculation about international links

Algerian officials and authorities from neighbouring countries have long speculated that the GSPC may be active outside Algeria. However, these activities most likely have to do with the GSPC's long-standing involvement with the black economy - smuggling, protection rackets and money laundering across the borders of Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Libya and Chad - which provides the group's financial underpinnings. However, recent developments seem to indicate that a splinter group may have sought refuge in the Tuareg regions of northern Mali and Niger following crackdowns by Algerian government forces in the North and South of the country since 2003.

A number of observers have voiced doubts regarding the GSPC's capacity to carry out large-scale attacks such as the one in northeastern Mauritania during the "Flintlock 2005" military exercise. [ US targets Sahara 'terrorist haven'] , "BBC News", 8 August 2005] They suspect the involvement of Algeria's Department of Intelligence and Security (DRS) in an effort to improve Algeria's international standing (as a credible partner in the "war against terrorism") and to lure the United States into the region.

Allegations of GSPC's links to al-Qaeda predate the September 11, 2001 attacks. As followers of a Qutbist strand of jihadist Salafism, the members of the GSPC are thought to share al-Qaeda's general worldview. After the desposition of the group's founder, Hassan Hattab, in 2003, various leaders of the group have pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda. Some observers have argued that the GSPC's connection to al-Qaeda is nominal (i.e. opportunistic), not operational. Claims of GSPC activities in Italy [ [ GSPC in Italy: The Forward Base of Jihad in Europe] by Kathryn Haar, Jamestown Foundation, 9 February 2006)] are disputed by other sources, who say that there is no evidence of any engagement in terrorist activities against US, European or Israeli targets: "While the GSPC [...] ha [s] established support networks in Europe and elsewhere, these have been limited to ancillary functions (logistics, fund-raising, propaganda), not acts of terrorism or other violence outside Algeria." Investigations in France and Britain have concluded that young Algerian immigrants sympathetic to the GSPC or al-Qaeda have taken up the name without any real connection to either group.

Similar claims of links between the GSPC and Abu Musab Al Zarqawi in Iraq [" [ ‘The Al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb’: The Evolving Terrorist Presence in North Africa] ", Inquiry and Analysis, Middle East Media Research Institute, 03-07-2007. Retrieved 09-08-2007.] are based on purported letters to Zarqawi by GSPC leader Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud. [ [ Algerian terror group seeks Zarqawi's help] , "UPI" 2 May 2006] In a September 2005 interview, Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud hailed Zarqawi's actions in Iraq. Like the GSPC's earlier public claims of allegiance to al-Qaeda, they are thought to be opportunistic legitimation efforts of the GSPC's leaders due to the lack of representation in Algeria's political sphere.

After years of absence, the United States has begun to show renewed military interest in the region [ [ General Sees Expanding Strategic Role for U.S. European Command In Africa] by Charles Cobb Jr., American Enterprise Institute, 16 April 2004] [ [ Africa Command Not European Command, Says Official] by Charles Cobb Jr., American Enterprise Institute, 4 May 2004] and staged the "Flintlock 2005" exercise, which involved US Special Forces training soldiers from Algeria, Senegal, Mauritania, Mali and Chad. The United States alleges that the Sahel region has become a training ground for Islamist recruits. [ DoD Press Release] about the "Flintlock 2005" military exercise, 17 June 2005] Yet the two most important pieces of evidence of 'terrorist activity' - the tourist kidnapping of 2003 and the attack on the Mauritanian army base just as "Flintlock" got underway - have been called into question. [ [ L'attaque contre la garnison de Lemgheity toujours à la une] , "Panapress", Jeune Afrique, 16 June 2005]

Observers say that the region's governments have much to gain from associating [ [ Un Marocain arrêté en Mauritanie pour terrorisme] , "La Libération (Casablanca)", 8 June 2006] local armed movements and long-established smuggling operations with al-Qaeda and a global 'War on Terrorism'. In June 2005, while the "Flintlock" exercise was still underway, Mauritania asked "Western countries interested in combating the terrorist surge in the African Sahel to supply it with advanced military equipment." [ [ Mauritanian authorities transform Lemgheity post into military base] , "Al-Akhbar" website in Arabic 1410 gmt 22 Jun 05, BBC Monitoring Service.]

In November 2007 Nigerian authorities arrested five men who according to them had seven sticks of dynamite and other explosives on them at the time of arrest. Nigerian prosecutors say that three of the accused had trained for two years with the then Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat in Algeria. [ [ BBC NEWS | World | Africa | Five Nigerians on terror charges ] ]

In January 2008 the Dakar Rally was cancelled due to threats made by associated terrorist organizations.

Major Attacks Claimed by AQIM, 2007-Present

Incident data retrieved from Worldwide Incidents Tracking System [ (U) [ Worldwide Incidents Tracking System] ]

* On 13 February 2007, between 4:00 AM and 10:00 AM, in Bourmerdas, Boumerdes, Algeria; Si Mustapha, Boumerdes, Algeria; Souk el Had, Boumerdes, Algeria; and Tizi Ouzou, Algeria, assailants detonated several bombs and several car bombs in seven coordinated attacks, killing four civilians and two police officers, wounding 19 civilians and 10 police officers, and seriously damaging several police stations and nearby residences. The al-Qa'ida Organization in Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility. [ View Incident]

* On 11 April 2007, at about 10:45 AM, in Algiers, Algeria, and Bab Ezzouar, Algeria, assailants detonated two car bombs, one at the Government Palace and one at a police station, killing 33 people, including civilians, government employees, and police; wounding 222 other people, including civilians, government employees, and police; and damaging the Government Palace and the police station. Authorities defused a third car bomb targeting the residence of the Director General of National Security in Algiers. The al-Qa'ida Organization in Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility. [ View Incident]

* On 6 September 2007, in Batna, Algeria, a suicide bomber detonated a bomb he was wearing in a crowd waiting to greet the Algerian President, killing 19 civilians and several police officers and wounding approximately 97 civilians and many police officers. The al-Qa'ida Organization in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility. [ View Incident]

* On 8 September 2007, in Dellys, Boumerdes, Algeria, a suicide bomber drove a car bombs into the entrance of a naval barracks, killing 27 coast guard officials and three civilians, wounding approximately 57 coast guard officials and three civilians, and damaging the barracks. The al-Qa'ida Organization in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility. [ View Incident]

* On 11 December 2007, in the morning, in Algiers, Alger, Algeria, assailants detonated two car bombs, one at the Algerian Supreme Court building in Bin Aknun neighborhood and one at the headquarters of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Hydra neighborhood, killing 17 UN employees (14 Algerian; 1 Danish; 1 Filipino; 1 Senegalese) and 25 civilians (1 Chinese; 24 Algerian); wounding 158 other people, including UN employees and civilians, seven construction workers, and five students; and damaging the UNHCR headquarters, the Algerian Supreme Court building, and one bus. The al-Qa'ida Organization in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility. [ View Incident]

* On 2 January 2008, at about 7:00 AM, in Naciria, Tizi Ouzou, Algeria, a suicide bomber drove a car bomb into a police station, killing four police officers, wounding twelve civilians and eight police officers, and damaging the police station, several houses, and several businesses. Al-Qa'ida Organization in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility. [ View Incident]

* On 29 January 2008, at 6:30 AM, in Thenia, Boumerdes, Algeria, a suicide bomber detonated a car bomb while driving towards a police station, killing three police officers and one civilian, wounding 23 people, and damaging the police station, one restaurant, several shops, and 20 residences. Al-Qa'ida Organization in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility. [ View Incident]

Major Attacks Prior to 2007

* On 15 October 2006, in Sidi Medjahed, Ain Defla, Algeria, assailants attacked and killed eight private security guards by unknown means. [ View Incident]

* On 7 April 2005, in Tablat, Blida Province, Algeria, armed assailants fired on five vehicles at a fake road block, killing 13 civilians, wounding one other and burning five vehicles. [ View Incident]

* On 12 February 2004, near Tighremt, Algeria, Islamic extremists ambushed a police patrol, killing seven police officers and wounding three others. The assailants also seized firearms and three vehicles. [ View Incident]

* February 2003: 32 European tourists are kidnapped. 1 dead, 17 hostages rescued by Algerian troops on May 13, 2003, and 14 released in August 2003.
* November 23 2002: Ambush of a group of Algerian soldiers. 9 dead, 12 wounded.

ee also

*11 April 2007 Algiers bombings
*11 December 2007 Algiers bombings
*2007 Batna bombing
*2007 Casablanca bombings
*2007 Dellys bombing
*Salafia Jihadia


External links

* [ Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (aka Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat) ] The Council on Foreign Relations
* [ Al Qaeda in Maghreb] , Javier Jordan
* [ The GSPC: Newest Franchise in al-Qa’ida’sGlobal Jihad] , Lianne Kennedy Boudali, The Combating Terrorism Center, United States Military Academy
* [ Les inquiétants émirs du Sahel] by Christine Holzbauer, "L'Express", 28/11/2002
* [ Islamism, Violence and Reform in Algeria: Turning the Page (Islamism in North Africa III)] International Crisis Group Report, 30 July 2004
* [,2144,1306992,00.html Focus on Terror - GSPC] , "Deutsche Welle", 3 September 2004
* [ Interview with Abu Omar Abdul Bir of the GSPC Media Wing] ( website) (pdf)
* [ Interview with Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud, commander of the GSPC] , 26 September 2005 ( website) (pdf)
* [ El Para, the Maghreb’s Bin Laden] "Le Monde Diplomatique", February 2005
* [ The Algerian Salafist Group for Call and Combat: A dossier] Jamestown Foundation, March 2005
* [ Islamist Terrorism in the Sahel: Fact or Fiction?] - International Crisis Group Report, 31 March 2005
* [ BBC Documentary] about increased US military focus on the Sahara region. August 2005. [ part 1] / [ part 2] (mp3)
* [ France declared an Al-Qaeda target: report]
* [ Athena Intelligence] Advanced Research Network on Insurgency and Jihadist Terrorism (former Jihad Monitor)
* [ Is Salafism an Indicator of Terrorism, Political Violence and Radicalization?]
* [ Stop Calling them Salafist-Jihadists]
* [ Indonesia Backgrounder: Why Salafism and Terrorism Mostly Don't Mix]
* [ A Threat Renewed - Ragtag Insurgency Gains a Lifeline From Al Qaeda] NY Times July 1 2008

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