New AQIM abduction cases

In mid-December 2008, UN special envoy to Niger, Robert Fowler, and his aide, Louis Guay, mysteriously disappeared while on a field trip. The fate of the two Canadians long remained shrouded in uncertainty. A Nigerian Tuareg rebel group first claimed responsibility for their abduction, but this claim was quickly retracted. In early February Canadian authorities received a video tape from unknown sources which confirmed the two diplomats were still alive, and demanded a prisoner swap for their release. Last Wednesday, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb released an online statement in which it claimed responsibility not only for the abduction of Fowler and Guay, but also that of four European tourists who disappeared from the Mali-Niger border area in late January. The latest statement is brief and raises as many questions as it answers. It names and depicts the four tourists (one Briton, one German and two Swiss), but offers no

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AQIM, the Plague and the Press

There is an incredible story coming out of Algeria these days. International and Algerian media have reported that 40 members of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) were killed by the plague (black death) at a training camp in Tizi Ozou, eastern Algeria earlier this month (see also here). According to intelligence officials, the outbreak was either a consequence of poor living conditions or, more likely, due to a biological weapons experiment gone awry. While this would seem to place AQIM in line for a Darwin Award, that is precisely why we should be careful to conclude too early on the veracity of these rumours. AQIM, on its side, has been quick to respond to the story, publishing Wednesday (January 21) an official statement refuting the reports. Ascribing the story to “hypocrite pens” and characterizing it as “a plot by the intelligence community”, AQIM “assures that the claims are totally

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