Guess Who’s Back? Adrian on Algeria

Adrian has another post today as part of the MediaShack 9/11 series.   Its a follow up to last week’s superb superb look at CT in the South Sahara.  Given his numerous guest posts, frequent commenting and passing along of articles, I think its time to give him full membership at AMS, so I sent him an official neo-green Arabic Media Shack t-shirt.  It really looks good.  He’ll get so many numbers wearing this baby around town, and I know he will because he has a habit of wearing t-shirt to literally every bar he goes to (even if that means getting kicked out)!!! Anyway, the floor goes to Adrian (I lost his password, thats why the post is under my name). 


 The Economist this week has  a decent article on North African terror networks.  Some comments:

AQIM says it has also carried out attacks in Mauritania. It claims responsibility for the killing of four French tourists, which forced the cancellation of this year’s Paris-Dakar car rally;”;”

There is no actual iron-clad confirmation that that was AQIM and not some random robbery/homicide, although a recent blog post has done more to convince me that it was in fact terrorism-related.  The Moor Next Door has just posted some extremely interesting observations based on the notes on interrogations of some AQIM members he received from his “well placed Mauritanian friend’ (sketchy/awesome!) where the local AQIM/Mauritania “emir” states they killed the tourists to steal their passports.  This might explain why there was no triumphant declaration of responsibility.  This should be taken with a grain of salt, as it IS the Mauritanians interrogating him, so while before I thought it was 50/50 as to whether its AQIM related, now it’s probably 80/20.  People interested in AQIM should watch The Moor Next Door’s blog, as he says he’ll be posting more notes from the interrogations.

and an attack on Israel’s embassy in the capital, Nouakchott.”

At 2am some dudes shot up a nightclub next door to the embassy that was full of alcohol and prostitutes.  Not exactly Carlos the Jackal at work.

Tunisia is yet another apparent target of AQIM. The group has boasted that it kidnapped two Austrian tourists there earlier this year.”

The kidnapping occured across the border in Algeria because the tourists got lost.  It looks more like a crime of opportunity designed to get some quick cash than any serious terrorist Nicholas Berg-like event.  There hasn’t been much news about the hostages in the last couple months but I haven’t heard that they were killed – they were still alive on Sept 9.

North African groups tied to al-Qaeda have yet to carry out attacks in Europe.”

In fact some of the GIA-era cells from the 1990s have been turned by French intelligence and as far as we know AQIM has no assets in Europe even with all the Algerians in France.  (Sorry no source available.)

The Moor Next Door reports that the Algerian wing (i.e. the main wing) has been sending the Mauritanians some money to do terrorism, and so the Mauritanian wing is dependent on the Algerians for cash.  But how much money do you need to do nothing?  While there was a recent big event with 12 Mauritanian soldiers beheaded, it looks like Algerians were responsible for that (similar to the raid they launched in Mauritania just before Operation Flintlock 2005).  Compared to the Algeria’s two major guerrilla operations in Mauritania in 3 years, the Mauritanians themselves have been able to murder some tourists and shoot up a disco.

The last sentence of the article I think is the right idea: “But governments in the Maghreb are certainly trying to stir Western anxieties in order to get more American and European cash and support.”  Aid money may be hard to come by when you are a corrupt dictatorship with a rule-of-law problem, but it becomes much easier when you suddenly (through no fault of your own!) find yourself fighting terrorists.

5 Responses

  1. I will wear the T-shirt the next time I’m in an airport, just to see what happens.

  2. hahahaha

  3. The Algerian wing isn’t exactly swimming in cash, though, is it? They seem to get most of their money from (a) smuggling in the south and (b) kidnapping people for ransom and (c) highway robbery. I guess there’s also the odd private donation, but there’s no known state sponsorship. By all accounts, their life up in the maquis is pretty miserable, and at least up in Kabylie, some brigades resort to stealing chickens and goats to survive … so if the Mauritanians are waiting for GSPC investments, they may have to wait a long time.

    My guess is that the money involved here is basically the southern Emirate (or Emirates?) handing over a beat-up 4×4, a training opportunity or a wad of cash every now and then to what they judge are promising networks, or subcontracting services for their smuggling stuff for mutual benefit, just to keep people onboard and to maintain the terrorist background buzz in the region. Think of it as a long-term investment strategy rather than as a closely run operation.

  4. It’s possible that life for the main AQIM in Kabyle is miserable because they have no money, AND life for the Southern AQIM (we need a better name for it) is fine because they have plenty of moeny. Western hostages net millions of Euros every few years, and the drug trade is likely profitable as well. This would jive with Belmokhtar’s stashing away of millions of dollars/Euro/dinars/CFAF/whatever so he can retire.

    As to your guess for what the southern Emirate’s assistance is, it sounds pretty reasonable. At least one of the “training camps” run in the Sahara by AQIM was simply meeting in the middle of nowhere to watch a video on a laptop. It might be that beyond cash, which they probably don’t want to give up, they might just not have much to offer as they haven’t actually even attempted any terrorist bombings themselves. Or it could be a long-term strategy to destabilize Mauritania, or simply a low-reward yet low-risk strategy.

  5. At least one of the “training camps” run in the Sahara by AQIM was simply meeting in the middle of nowhere to watch a video on a laptop.

    Well, one man’s teambuilding coach is another man’s terrorist.

    There seem to be more serious training sessions up north, though. There have been Tunisians and Moroccans going to these, and I’m sure they take Mauritanians as well.

    …or simply a low-reward yet low-risk strategy.

    This sounds most plausible, doesn’t it? And now, as AQIM rather than GSPC, it is not unimportant to signal that they maintain a presence all across the map of Northern Africa, even if that in reality means 1000 guys in Kabylie, 200 in Mali, and a feeble 30 in Nouakchott: the media will still be coloring the whole region “terrorist infested”.

    Now of course, given the situation in Mauritania, some additional energy into destabilizing may pay off as well.

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