News

International Experts: Al-Qaida Facing Crisis in North Africa

International experts on al-Qaida say the terrorist movement is facing a crisis in North Africa, where it once hoped to build a regional network. They say only about 500 Islamist fighters remain in al-Qaida's North African base of Algeria, down from more than 10,000  in the country in the mid-1990s.
 
French historian Jean-Pierre Filiu says since the 1990s al-Qaida has been trying to use Algeria as a base to set up a North African network. But he says al-Qaida  failed to achieve its goal because Algerian Islamists were more focused on fighting Algeria's military rulers, who canceled 1992 elections that an Islamist party was poised to win.

Filiu, a professor at the Paris Institute of Political Studies, says the insurgents numbered more 10,000 in the mid-1990s. Most of them were defeated or surrendered to the government during the war.

Some Algerian Islamists however formed a splinter group that swore allegiance to al-Qaida in 2007 and began suicide bombings against foreigners and locals. Now, Filiu says only about 500 fighters remain in action, calling themselves al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb - a reference to North Africa.

He says they tried to recruit followers to fight the U.S.-led war in Iraq. But the French professor told a forum in Washington Wednesday al-Qaida's recent setbacks in Iraq robbed the Algerian militants of a recruiting tool.

 "What the Iraqi invasion gave them, and the integration into al-Qaida gave them, was a new impetus, a new dynamic - obviously, the dynamic now is broken," he said.

Filiu says al-Qaida was able to carry out only one major suicide attack in Algeria in 2008 - a car bombing that killed 43 people at a police academy in the country's north. But he says it failed to stage more big attacks because it has alienated Algerians.

"In the Islamic Maghreb like everywhere, al-Qaida is at war with Muslims - we should never get tired of repeating it - most of al-Qaida's victims are Muslims, and the people who stand on the front lines against al-Qaida are Muslims," said Filiu.

Another speaker at the forum was University of Virginia professor William Quandt. He says al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb remains essentially an Algerian group driven by domestic interests.

"I am not sure what the al-Qaida brand does for them - maybe they get a little bit of money, maybe they get a little bit of training somewhere for some of their people. But by and large, I see this as just one further faction of what originally was a fairly broad Islamist opposition front, and this is the tail-end of it that remains, with a new name," he said.

Quandt, a former member of the U.S. National Security Council, says Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has marginalized Islamist militants through a combination of repression and amnesty.

Mr. Bouteflika vowed to keep seeking national reconciliation after being elected this month to a third term as president, a post he has held since 1999. Quandt says Mr. Bouteflika's refusal to allow former Islamist rebels to run for office could lead to growing frustration with the government.

"I do worry about what happens when people feel the system is very closed to them. Some small numbers of those may turn out to be the next wave of recruits for whatever the new organization will call itself," he said.

 Quandt says Algeria's dependence on the revenue of its oil exports means a prolonged economic downturn could leave the government vulnerable to unrest.


Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin
This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs