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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
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 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 Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs