Primer on Jihadi Players in Algeria and Mali, Pt. 1: AQIM

[Editor’s Note: Jihadica is thrilled to welcome Andrew Lebovich, one of the very few people who specializes in North African jihadis. This is the first of a four part series on the jihadi chess pieces at play in the current Mali/Algerian crisis. Tomorrow’s post will be on the splinter group founded by the mysterious Mokhtar Belmokhtar, reportedly behind the assault on the oil and gas installation in Algeria.] The brazen assault and hostage taking in southern Algeria has brought about a sudden surge of interest in the region’s jihadist groups, especially given the complex history of the man reportedly behind the assault, Mokhtar Belmokhtar. This, in turn, has led to a good deal of questioning about Belmokhtar’s past, his “new” jihadist group, and the other militant groups currently occupying northern Mali. Here’s a quick explainer: The best-known of the groups operating in northern Mali is almost certainly al-Qaida in the Islamic

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Training Camps in Mauritania

Regular readers of Jihadica know of my long-running interest in Jihadism in Mauritania (go here for a great blog about the country).  Recently, a German intel chief remarked that al-Qaeda has moved all of its training camps from Af-Pak to Mauritania and is planning to launch attacks on Europe from there.  The movement of all the camps to Mauritania can’t be true–AQ has a good thing going in Pakistan with the modular camps they set up, which, I’m told, are indistinguishable from the air from normal houses in enclosures.  Nevertheless, it makes sense for AQIM to increase training in Mauritania now that Iraq is drying up.  They’ll have more manpower, more money, etc.  From there, operatives can move north to Europe via Morocco and to the east along the Sahel.  That there are rebellious tribesmen (the Tuareg) and well-grooved smuggling networks is an added bonus.  If there is to be a redoubt for a second front, Mauritania looks like

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Saudi Terror Arrests Summary, Government Points Finger at Iran

I’ve been collecting news stories on the terror suspects arrested in Saudi Arabia. Much of the reporting relies on Saudi security personnel and the Interior Ministry’s statement last week, so it should be read with due skepticism. There’s a lot to discuss, but I’ll save my comments for later. For the moment it’s worth noting that, as of today, the Saudis are now injecting a new piece of information into the story: the network was taking orders and receiving money from someone in Iran: The funding for the AQ cells in Saudi came from one of the major countries in the region in the form of Euros. (al-Qabas, “Oil Cell”) Instructions for the cells came from the same major country in the region in which leaders of AQ sought refuge, like the Egyptian Sayf al-Adl who is currently living there. (al-Qabas, “Oil Cell”) Below is my summary of all the

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Mauritania Again

In the news surrounding the Saudi statement on its capture of suspected terrorists over the past six months (see Marisa’s links here and here and here), one thing stood out: 40 Mauritanians were arrested in Saudi’s oil-rich Eastern Province, some (all?) of whom were part of a cell that planned to attack oil installations in the province. I’ve written before on the repeated blipping of Mauritania on my radar screen and Alle has helped me understand (here and here) the rise of Islamist militancy in that country. But why are so many involved in militancy in faraway places like Saudi and Afghanistan/Pakistan? Why not just join al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb? (Picture of one of the Mauritanians arrested in Saudi)

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Mauritania on the Horizon

Ekhlaas member moutagha asks “What is the reason that Usama mentioned Mauritania in his latest speech?” He notes that it was well after al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb attacked the Israeli embassy in Mauritania in February 2008 and after Jihadis killed four French tourists in December 2007. Although moutagha does not receive any good responses to his query, his question did remind me of something strange I noticed when reading Zawahiri’s Exoneration. In it, Zawahiri goes on at some length about the large numbers of Mauritanian scholars and seminary students who have come to visit Bin Laden and support his cause. I don’t know enough about North Africa or Jihadi-Salafism in Mauritania to understand this dynamic, so I’m left with moutagha’s question: why Mauritania? Document (Arabic): 5-29-08-ekhlaas-why-mauritania

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