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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

America's Most Exotic Presidential Pets

From alligators to bears, the White House has been home to some unusual presidential pets over the years 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs