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.)
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Abuja Blast Impacts Lives, Livelihoods

Officials say they are looking at ways to help bombing victims and boosting security More

Cambodia Technology Adviser Criticizes Cybercrime Draft Law

Phu Leewood says current criminal code can be used to prosecute offenders and that there is no need for a separate law More

Photogallery A Year Later, Boston Remembers Deadly Marathon Bombings

City pauses to honor victims and salute emergency workers who came to their assistance in frantic moments after blasts 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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid