Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghrib: Algerian Challenge or Global Threat?
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Carnegie Papers : 104
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, established in January 2007, is the latest in a long line of Algerian jihadi groups. Like many terrorist organizations, AQIM enjoys global media exposure on activist Internet sites, but unlike other al-Qaeda franchises, it has managed to maintain its indigenous leadership. The group has become known for fearsome suicide attacks, which were previously unheard of in Algeria, but has failed to incorporate the jihadi outfi ts from neighboring Morocco and Tunisia. AQIM has therefore focused on the northern Sahara, carving out safe havens and threatening weak government forces,first in Mauritania, and now increasingly in Mali. At the outset, AQIM’s global strategy was based on the triangular dynamic of the Middle East (where Iraq serves as a magnet for potential recruits), North Africa (where the group functions as a regional jihadi recruiting hub), and Europe (where it pursues aggressive propaganda against the French and Spanish “Crusaders”). The demise of al-Qaeda in Iraq jeopardized this grand design, undermining AQIM’s capabilities on both sides of the Mediterranean, but although it primarily targets Western “Crusaders” in its own Algerian and Saharan environment, AQIM remains wedded to a global agenda.The threat of AQIM must be contained, and hopefully, ultimately eradicated. Algeria and the other targeted states have a long record of fi ghting similar jihadi networks, but they cannot confront transnational movements without international cooperation. To address this threat, regional security organizations can enhance much-needed bilateral exchanges among law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Additionally, the countries implementing the UN global strategy against terrorism should focus considerable attention on North Africa and the Sahel, where the threat is on the rise, but not yet out of control.