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Sunday, July 06, 2008

AQIM the al Qaeda Franchise, a brief History

The New York Times, in its most recent drive-by journalistic effort, has written a piece that claims as its primary source is Garowe online, a pro-jhad online news organization with al-Qaeda connections, but has interviewed a number of participants, so it merits a review.

I read the article with the objective of gaining insight into how al Qaeda develops its network affiliates.

al Qaeda is creating an influential terror-group network across North Africa. This NY Times story is about AQIM, al Qaeda's most succesfull effort to date, but this same process is underway with other regional groups in Niger, Chad, Libya, Tunisia,Congo, Uganda and Kenya, to name a few.

Keep in the mind al Qaeda is working more quietly in Mozambique, Zanzibar, (Tanzania), Madagascar, South Africa, Angola, and Cameroon, to name a few more.

What follows is a summary of points from the NY Times article:


A photograph provided by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and verified by The New York Times shows Abdelmalek Droukdal, fourth from left. He is the AQIM leader.

Their nationalist battle against the Algerian military was faltering. “We didn’t have enough weapons,” recalled a former militant lieutenant, Mourad Khettab, 34. “The people didn’t want to join. And money, we didn’t have enough money.”

  • Then the leader of the group, a university mathematics graduate named Abdelmalek Droukdal, sent a secret message to Iraq in the fall of 2004. to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, and formed a partnership.

  • AQIM, as the Algerian group has come to be known, have grown from gun fights into suicide truck bombings, like the United Nations offices in Algiers.

  • They have kidnapped and killed European tourists as their reach expands throughout northern Africa.

  • Last month, they did a pair of bombs outside a train station east of Algiers, the second one timed to hit emergency responders. A French engineer and his driver were killed by the first bomb; the second one failed to explode.

  • al Qaeda expanded its reach by bringing local militants under the Qaeda brand.

  • The Algerian group offers Al Qaeda hundreds of experienced fighters and a potential connection to militants living in Europe.

  • Over the past 20 months, suspects of North African origin have been arrested in Spain, France, Switzerland and Italy, although their connection to the Algerians is not always clear.

The inside story of the group, pieced together through dozens of interviews with militants and with intelligence, military and diplomatic officials, shows that the Algerians’ decision to join Al Qaeda was driven by both practical forces and the global fault line of Sept. 11, 2001.

  • Droukdal cited religious motivations for his group’s merger with Al Qaeda.

  • "If the U.S. administration sees that its war against the Muslims is legitimate, then what makes us believe that our war on its territories is not legitimate?” Mr. Droukdal said in an audiotape in response to a list of questions from The New York Times, apparently his first contact with a journalist.
    Everyone must know that we will not hesitate in targeting it whenever we can and wherever it is on this planet,” he said.

  • Interviews with American, European and Arab officials and a former lieutenant in Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb indicate that more opportunistic factors were at play in the growth of the group.

  • A long-running government offensive against the Algerian insurgents had nearly crushed the group, officials said.

  • They needed the Qaeda imprimatur to raise money and to shed their outlaw status in radical Muslim circles as a result of their slaughtering of civilians in the 1990s.

  • The Iraq war also was drawing many of the group’s best fighters, according to Mr. Khettab and a militant who trained Algerians in Iraq for Mr. Zarqawi.

  • Embracing the global jihad was seen as a way to keep more of these men under the Algerian group’s control and recruit new members.

Then, in March 2004, a covert American military operation led to the capture of one of the group’s top deputies. A few months later, Mr. Droukdal reached out to Mr. Zarqawi to get the man released.

  • Mr. Zarqawi seized the opportunity to convince him that Al Qaeda could revive his operations, a former top leader of the Algerian group says.

  • Just as the Qaeda leadership has been able to reconstitute itself in Pakistan’s ungoverned tribal areas,

  • Al Qaeda’s North Africa offshoot is now running small training camps for militants from Morocco, Tunisia and as far away as Nigeria,

  • The State Department in April categorized the tribal areas and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb as the two top hot spots in its annual report on global terrorism.

  • The threat is felt most acutely in Europe and in particular in France, which ruled Algeria for 132 years until 1962 and is a major trading partner with the authoritarian government in Algiers.

Souad Mekhennet, Michael Moss,Eric Schmitt, Elaine Sciolino, Margot Williams, and Basil Katz were all listed as participants in this work.

The Rest @ the NY Times

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