News / Africa

Well-Known al-Qaida Leader Involved in Algeria Attack

This image from video provided by the SITE Intel Group made available on January 17, 2013, purports to show militant militia leader Moktar Belmoktar. (AP has no way of independently verifying the content, location or date of this picture.)
This image from video provided by the SITE Intel Group made available on January 17, 2013, purports to show militant militia leader Moktar Belmoktar. (AP has no way of independently verifying the content, location or date of this picture.)
Anne Look
A relatively new al-Qaida affiliate, calling itself al-Mua'qi'oon Biddam or "Those Who Sign with Blood," attacked a BP natural gas facility in Algeria Wednesday, taking dozens of foreigners hostage, along with an undisclosed number of Algerians. 

The militant group says it was retaliating for Algerian cooperation with the French military operation against Islamist rebels in Mali.  The latest reports say Algerian helicopters attacked the BP site Thursday, killing a number of hostages and their captors. 

The leader of the group, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, has long topped the region's Most Wanted List.

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)

  • Formed in the 1990's to fight Algeria's secular government
  • Wants to rid North Africa of western influence and impose sharia
  • Estimated to have amassed $100 million in kidnapping ransoms
Belmokhtar is a former commander of al-Qaida's North Africa branch, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, which has been active in northern Mali since 2007 when the Algerian-based Salafist group officially joined al-Qaida.

He reportedly broke off from AQIM in December 2012 with the aim of spreading jihad beyond the Sahara.

Dakar-based security analyst Andrew Lebovich said this new battalion appears to draw a core group of fighters from Belmohktar's cell under AQIM, the so-called "Masked Battalion."  It remains closely related to the al-Qaida-linked Islamist militants currently fighting French and Malian forces in north and central Mali.

"There are probably personal differences between some of these leaders but this fragmentation, this separation into different groups appears to be a way to manage those differences while maintaining relatively uniform types of action," he said.

Belmokhtar has been linked to dozens of kidnappings-for-ransom and hostage negotiations in the Sahel in the past decade.  His nicknames include "The Uncatchable" and "Mr Marlboro," for his heavy involvement in cigarette smuggling in the Sahel.

Yet, despite these criminal activities, security analysts like Lebovich say Belmokhtar is a hardened jihadist, trained by al-Qaida in Afghanistan and heavily involved in Algerian jihadist groups beginning in 1993.

"He's known for being a survivor, a dealmaker, for being very crafty," Lebovich said. "People forget that he has an exceptionally long jihadist pedigree.  He traveled to Afghanistan when he was 17 years old, he lost his eye in Afghanistan.  He fought from an early point with the GIA [Armed Islamic Group].  He was one of the first to join the GSPC [Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat], was a commander under AQIM, maybe is still a commander in AQIM, depending on how you define the structure.  So this is a man who has been doing this for more than 20 years at this point."

The group calling itself "Those Who Sign with Blood" told the Mauritanian press Wednesday that the hostage-taking was in response to Algeria letting France use its air space to conduct air strikes in northern Mali against Islamist militant groups.

France began the aerial bombardments in Mali on Friday, at the request of the Malian government, after jihadist fighters began pushing south. 

VOA spoke to a close Belmokhtar associate and a commander for another AQIM-offshoot in northern Mali, Oumar Ould Hamaha of the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa on Wednesday.  He said the hostage taking in Algeria was but the beginning of the "consequences" for countries contributing to the war against them in Mali.

You May Like

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: ali baba from: new york
January 17, 2013 2:05 PM
the more attack on Islamic radical hideout and impose economic sanction on Pakistan ,Afghanistan .Somalia .Yemen. Will help to root out these fanatic .they understand the language of power. the former policy for negotiation ,giving them economic help has not help to stop these radical Islam . if these countries feel the pain from hardship will cooperate effectively .but these countries are playing double standard which resulted of more radical Muslim in the world

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid