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

    US Watching as North Korea Holds Biggest Political Meeting in 36 Years

    Workers' Party Congress set for Friday; Washington anticipating possibility of another missile launch or nuclear test as top officials gather

    Video Pop Icon Prince Quietly Helped Afghan Orphans for Years

    He sent thousands of dollars to help an aid group rebuild a training center for orphan boy and girl scouts in Kabul, but kept his involvement secret

    Britain’s Muslims See London Mayor Race as Victory

    Mere running of 45-year-old former government minister and son of Pakistani immigrants Sadiq Khan seen by many as turning point

    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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labori
    X
    May 05, 2016 6:44 PM
    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labor

    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora