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Dr. Walid Phares



Dr. Walid Phares

Algeria's bombings: al Qaeda strike at French-Algerian rapprochement?

By Walid Phares

December 11, 2007

Here are few remarks about the bombings in Algeria today:

An Al Qaeda link?

Most experts in Algeria and the Arab world believe this terror campaign is either inspired or ordered by al Qaeda in the Maghreb. Even if the execution is perpetrated by local Jihadist groups it is part of the Salafist general offensive against Algeria's Government and an extension to the North African operations by al Qaeda Maghreb in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Mauritania and possibly later Libya. This attack in Algeria today is linked to the regional strategy of weakening the Algerian Government in general and resuming the 1990s warfare against Kufr (infdidel) institutions, society and Government. But unlike in the past decade, today's operations are strategically coordinated with al Qaeda central, not in terms of operations but policies and international decision making. However I believe that this particular attack is a response to the recent visit by French President Nicholas Sarkozy to Algeria. It is directed against the number of agreements signed by the Government of Abdelaziz Bouteflika with the Paris presidential delegation. The Jihadist incitement against the Algerian authorities, including mostly via the al jazeera shows, usually indicates the trends to come. Algiers was accused by the Salafi forces as "betraying the Muslim world and associating with French kuffar." The strikes came in line with this incitement.

A Pyramid

Since the beginning of this year, al Qaeda worldwide has organized its presence in North Africa through al Qaeda in the Maghreb, a sort of a super emirate covering the Jihadi activities in Morocco and Algeria. But the regional umbrella has also local groups affiliated with it and also much smaller cells that operate separately. It looks like a Pyramid. The strategy of al Qaeda Maghreb is to undermine stability in North Africa and disrupt economic relationships with the European Union.

Any Significance of December “11”?

We will always have the tendency of looking at the date 11 in each month as a potential because of 9/11 in America and 3/11 in Madrid. The Jihadists will also try to bank on it. But in general terms al Qaeda and its allies would use dates according to their readiness

A sign of strength of al Qaeda?

Al Qaeda lost in some areas but grew in other sectors. The central al Qaeda based in Afghanistan before November 2001 is over. But the remnants of al Qaeda adapted in many other areas and are trying to find a spot from which they can regenerate a fully fledged regime, such as in Iraq, Somalia, Waziristan and also North Africa. The world is dealing with a different al Qaeda today.

Another “Ansar?”

The West generally gets confused with the names and identities of the various Jihadi groups including in North Africa. The GSPC, an off shoot from the GIA which was an off shoot of the FIS, which was a mutation from the Muslim Brotherhood are all under the web of Salafism. Since al Qaeda's campaigns in the 1990s and particularly after 2001, a number of Salafi Jihadist groups would emerge and take names, than change them and merge with others. The moves are faster than Western analysis can follow. These "Ansar" ( Ansar al Islam fi Sahara al Bilad al Mulazamin) are a brand of Jihadists who have designed the Maghreb and a piece of the Sahara as their area of operation. But at the top of the pyramid, there is al Qaeda.

Dr Walid Phares is Director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

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