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The Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), (Arabic: ????? ??????? ?? ???? ?????? ????????? Tan??m al-Q?‘idah f? Bil?d al-Maghrib al-Isl?m?) is an Islamist militia which aims to overthrow the Algerian government and institute an Islamic state. To that end, it is currently engaged in an insurgent campaign.
The group has declared its intention to attack Algerian, Spanish, French, and American targets. It has been designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S. Department of State, and similarly classed as a terrorist organization by the European Union.
Membership is mostly drawn from the Algerian Kabyle and the South Moroccan Sahrawi communities. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is heavily involved in drug trafficking, smuggling as well as other criminal activities.
It was previously known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (Arabic: ??????? ??????? ?????? ???????? al-Jam?‘ah as-Salafiyyah lid-Da‘wah wal-Qi??l, in French: Groupe Salafiste pour la Prédication et le Combat, GSPC, and also known as the Group for Call and Combat)
The GSPC was founded by Hassan Hattab, a former Armed Islamic Group (GIA) regional commander who broke with the GIA in 1998 in protest over the GIA's slaughter of civilians. After an amnesty in 1999, many former GIA fighters laid down their arms, but a few remained active, including members of the GSPC.
Estimates of the number of GSPC members vary widely, from a few hundred to as many as 4,000. In September 2003, it was reported that Hattab had been deposed as national emir of the GSPC and replaced by Nabil Sahraoui (Sheikh Abou Ibrahim Mustapha), a 39 year-old former GIA commander who was subsequently reported to have pledged GSPC's allegiance to al-Qaeda, a step which Hattab had opposed. Following the death of Sahraoui in June 2004, Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud became the leader of the GSPC. Abdelmadjid Dichou is also reported to have headed the group.
A splinter or separate branch of Hattab's group, the Free Salafist Group (GSL), headed by El Para, was linked to the kidnapping of 32 European tourists in Algeria in early 2003. Other sources[who?] illustrate the involvement of the Algerian intelligence services in exaggerating the claims about terrorist threats in the Sahara, and the supposed alliance between this group and Al-Qaeda. Some of the reputation of El Para is also attributed to the Algerian government, which is possibly his employer, and it has been alleged that certain key events, such as kidnappings, were staged, and that there was a campaign of deception and disinformation originated by the Algerian government and perpetuated by the media.
By March 2005, it was reported that the GSPC "may be prepared to give up the armed struggle in Algeria and accept the government's reconciliation initiative." In March 2006, the group's former leader, Hassan Hattab, called on its members to accept a government amnesty under which they were offered immunity from prosecution in return for laying down their arms. However, in September 2006, the top Al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri announced a "blessed union" between the groups in declaring France an enemy. They said they would work together against French and American interests. In January 2007, the group announced a formal change of name to al-Qaeda.
On 19 January 2009, the The Sun reported that there had been an outbreak of bubonic plague at a GSPC training camp in the Tizi Ouzou province in Algeria. According to the Sun, at least forty GSPC militias died from the disease. The surviving GSPC members from the training camp reportedly fled to other areas of Algeria hoping to escape infection. The Washington Times, in an article based on only a single, anonymous source, claimed a day later that the incident was not related to bubonic plague, but was an accident involving either a biological or chemical agent.
Speculation about international links
Algerian officials and authorities from neighbouring countries have speculated that the GSPC may be active outside Algeria. These activities may relate to the GSPC's alleged long-standing involvement with smuggling, protection rackets, and money laundering across the borders of Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Libya and Chad, possibly to underpin the group's finances. However, recent developments seem to indicate that a splinter group may have sought refuge in the Tuareg regions of northern Mali and Niger following crackdowns by Algerian government forces in the north and south of the country since 2003. French secret services report that the group has received funding from the country of Qatar.
Reports also claim that AQIM has members of Polisario in its ranks. There is some logic in this: Polisario is a leftist movement for self government of the Western Sahara, refuting the royal claim of Morocco on the Western Sahara. And Qutbist ideals lead AQIM to have similar ideas about all Muslims being equal, seeing the West-African Malikite version of Islam as feudal and therefore at odds with the ideals of the prophet Mohammed. Polisario also fights against the Moroccan crown, who'se claim on the Western Sahara is rooted in Malikite Islamic mythology.
Some observers, including Jeremy Keenan, have voiced doubts regarding the GSPC's capacity to carry out large-scale attacks, such as the one attributed to it in northeastern Mauritania during the "Flintlock 2005" military exercise. They suspect the involvement of Algeria's Department of Intelligence and Security in an effort to improve Algeria's international standing as a credible partner in the War on Terrorism, and to lure the United States into the region.
Allegations of GSPC links to al-Qaeda predate the September 11, 2001 attacks. As followers of a Qutbist strand of jihadist Salafism, the members of the GSPC are thought to share al-Qaeda's general ideological outlook. After the deposition of Hassan Hattab, various leaders of the group pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda. Some observers have argued that the GSPC's connection to al-Qaeda is merely opportunistic, not operational. Claims of GSPC activities in Italy are disputed by other sources, who say that there is no evidence of any engagement in terrorist activities against US, European or Israeli targets: "While the GSPC ... established support networks in Europe and elsewhere, these have been limited to ancillary functions (logistics, fund-raising, propaganda), not acts of terrorism or other violence outside Algeria." Investigations in France and Britain have concluded that young Algerian immigrants sympathetic to the GSPC or al-Qaeda have taken up the name without any real connection to either group.
Similar claims of links between the GSPC and Abu Musab Al Zarqawi in Iraq are based on purported letters to Zarqawi by GSPC leader Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud. In a September 2005 interview, Wadoud hailed Zarqawi's actions in Iraq. Like the GSPC's earlier public claims of allegiance to al-Qaeda, they are thought to be opportunistic legitimisation efforts of the GSPC's leaders due to the lack of representation in Algeria's political sphere.
In 2005, after years of absence, the United States showed renewed military interest in the region through involvement in the "Flintlock 2005" exercise, which involved US Special Forces training soldiers from Algeria, Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, and Chad. The United States alleged that the Sahel region had become a training ground for Islamist recruits. However, the two most important pieces of evidence of 'terrorist activity' – the tourist kidnapping of 2003 and the attack on the Mauritanian army base just as "Flintlock" got underway – have subsequently been called into question.
Observers say that the region's governments have much to gain from associating local armed movements and long-established smuggling operations with al-Qaeda and the global "War on Terrorism". In June 2005, while the "Flintlock" exercise was still underway, Mauritania asked "Western countries interested in combating the terrorist surge in the African Sahel to supply it with advanced military equipment."
In November 2007 Nigerian authorities arrested five men for alleged possession of seven sticks of dynamite and other explosives. Nigerian prosecutors alleged that three of the accused had trained for two years with the then Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat in Algeria. In January 2008 the Dakar Rally was cancelled due to threats made by associated terrorist organizations.
In later 2011, the splinter group Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa was founded in order to spread jihadi activities further into West Africa.
According to London-based risk analysis firm Stirling Assynt, AQIM issued a call for vengeance against Beijing for mistreatment of its Muslim minority following the July 2009 Ürümqi riots.
AQIM voiced support for demonstrations against the Tunisian and Algerian Governments in a video released on 13 January 2011. Al Qaeda offered military aid and training to the demonstrators, calling on them to overthrow "the corrupt, criminal and tyrannical" regime, calling for "retaliation" against the Tunisian government, and also calling for the overthrow of Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika. AQIM leader Abu Musab Abdul Wadud appeared in the video, calling for Islamic sharia law to be established in Tunisia. Al Qaeda has begun recruiting anti-government demonstrators, some of whom have previously fought against American forces in Iraq and Israeli forces in Gaza.
AQIM has also endorsed popular efforts in Libya to topple the regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, though it remains unclear how many (if any) fighters in Libya are loyal to al-Qaeda. Gaddafi seized on the expression of support for the rebel movement to blame al-Qaeda for fomenting rebellion.
Major attacks since 2002
Edwin Dyer was one of four Westerners who were kidnapped when their convoy was ambushed near the border between Niger and Mali in January 2009 by an African terrorist group calling itself Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, militia which aims to overthrow the Algerian government. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb made demands that the British government must release Abu Qatada, the Jordanian known as Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe, or Dyer would face execution.
In 2003, 32 Europeans were taken hostage in the Sahara in a series of abductions run by El Para, an agent of the Algerian intelligence service, the DRS. In February 2008 two Austrians were captured in Tunisia and taken via Algeria to Mali and freed later that year. Two Canadian diplomats were taken hostage in south-western Niger in December 2008 while on official UN mission to resolve crisis in northern Niger. They were freed in Mali in April 2009. Diplomat Robert Fowler later stated that the government of Niger could be behind the kidnapping. These all kidnappings were attributed to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb previously known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC).
On 31 May 2009 the terrorist group released a statement on a known terrorist website claiming to have executed Dyer. Edwin Dyer’s murder was confirmed by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Gordon Brown on 3 June 2009 after reports on an Islamist website that he had been killed. Prime Minister Gordon Brown condemned what he called an "appalling and barbaric act of terrorism" in Prime Ministers Questions on 6 March 2009.
Mr. Dyer spoke fluent German and had been working in Austria. He was kidnapped in Niger on 22 January, close to the border with Mali.
He was captured along with a number of other European tourists, including two Swiss and one German. The group had been visiting the Anderamboukane festival on nomad culture. All of the other tourists were eventually released. Werner Greiner, a fellow victim of the kidnap revealed to The Telegraph on 19 September 2009 that Edwyn Dyer 'saved his life' forcing him to eat and drink when he was at his weakest, arguing with his kidnappers to bring him medicine, and persuading him that no matter how hard things were, hope should never be abandoned.
Jedars (French spelling: Djedars) is the modern archaeological name given to thirteen monumental Berber mausoleums south of Tiaret city in Algeria. The name is derived from the Arabic: ???? ? jid?r (wall) which is used locally to refer to ancient ruins. These pre-Islamic tombs date from Late Antiquity (4th-7th? centuries CE).
The tombs are situated on the tops of two hills in the mountainous Frenda area about 30 km south of Tiaret. There are 3 on Jabal Lakhdar, and 10 on Jabal Arawi (also known as Ternaten) 6 km north of the first group. Their size and commanding situation indicates they were built for royalty. They have been systematically plundered for many centuries and hence are in a state of ruin.
The monuments were built straight onto the substratum or with very shallow excavation. Some stone was quarried from local limestone and sandstone, some was recycled from nearby settlements and necropoli of earlier times. The materials vary widely: dressed stone blocks 1-1.5 m. long, partially dressed blocks up to 2.4 m. long, natural rock slabs with minimal dressing, old tombstones, old building fragments. Most of the construction is dry stone, lime mortar is used sparingly.
The 13 Jedars share many characteristics, and there are many similarities with much smaller Berber tombs, called bazinas, that are common in the pre-Sahara zone. This shows that they represent an indigenous Berber tradition, in spite of their use of Roman building techniques and Mediterranean Christian iconography.
The characteristics are:
It is believed that the solid jedars that do not contain funerary chambers may cover a single tomb excavated into the bedrock.
Epigraphy and iconography
The jedars of Jabal Lakhdar seem to have displayed a dedicatory inscription on one side of the top. This inscription was in Latin, but not deeply engraved and hence in every case is now almost illegible; the inscribed blocks are also very damaged. Enough remains only to confirm that these were tombs, but not whose they were. However, these jedars display an enormous range of stonecutters' marks, from isolated letters to partial names. Most of these are also Latin, some have been postulated to be Tifinagh. There are a few unobtrusive Christian symbols, and a couple of roughly carved panels (apparently hunting scenes) similar to many ancient Lybico-Berber rock carvings.
The largest jedar at Ternaten is the only one in that group sufficiently intact to display epigraphy and iconography. It contained large well-executed polychrome murals (now almost completely weathered away) of religious scenes typical of Mediterranean Christian iconography of the 5th century or later, indicating that the ruling class had by then become Christian. This jedar also contains many Latin inscriptions on recycled tombstones and other building material, dating from the time of Septimius Severus (202-203 CE) up to 494 CE. The source of this recycled material is not known with certainty, but there are several large ruins of cities and necropoli in the surrounding districts.
The three jedars of Jabal Lakhdar are believed to be the oldest. Within this group, the relative chronology is now believed known, from study of the stonemasons' marks. The largest, with funerary chambers, known as Jedar A, is the oldest; very soon after, solid Djedar B was constructed by many of the same workmen. The last jedar, C, is believed to have been incomplete when it was very hurriedly finished and its occupant interred, perhaps a generation later. Taking into account the unobtrusive nature of the Christian symbols, it is believed the occupants of these tombs were not themselves Christian but ruled over Christian subjects. Remains of a wooden coffin from Jedar B returned a C14 date of 410 ± 50 CE. A recent re-reading of the dedication from Jedar A has proposed a 4th century date.
The only jedar in the Ternaten group for which dating has been attempted is the largest, Jedar F. Because the latest recycled tombstone bears a date of 494, it may be 6th or 7th century. Unlike the Jabal Lakhdar monuments, its funerary chambers seem to have been built to hold more than one occupant, so it has been proposed that it is dynastic, with the smaller jedars surrounding it those of lesser nobility or rank.
History and archaeology
The earliest known reference to the jedars is in the lost Tarikh of the 11th-century historian Ibrahim ar-Raqiq, in extracts preserved in the works of Ibn Khaldun and other later writers. ar-Raqiq relates that when the Fatimid caliph Ismail al-Mansur was conducting military operations in the Tiaret area, he was shown the jedars at Jabal Lakhdar and wanted to know what the dedicatory inscriptions said; he was given a fanciful translation that the monuments were built to celebrate a military victory by the Byzantine army of Justinian I. Although Ibn Khaldun lived in the area for a number of years, he made no other reference to the jedars.
Beginning in 1842, French military expeditions in the area noted the monuments, resulting in the first archaeological descriptions. Jedar A was opened in a very rough manner  in 1875 by antiquarians who failed to publish their research. In 1882, Professor La Blanchère from Algiers University published a detailed study on the jedars (mostly based on the previous excavations) and attempted to place them in historical context. His identification of them as belonging to the Berber king Massonas mentioned by the 6th century historian Procopius is not supported today.
In the early 1940s, an anthropology student, Dr. Roffo, obtained permission to excavate. In pursuance of this, he used explosives to open Jedar B, from which he obtained a skeleton which was in a wooden coffin in a tomb excavated beneath the building; the same happened with one of the smaller jedars at Ternaten. The whereabouts of these skeletons is unknown (they may lie unrecognised in an Algerian museum) and Dr. Roffo, it is said, burnt most of his notes in a fit of pique after an argument with the Director of Antiquities (who had probably got wind of his methods of 'excavation').
During the Algerian War of Independence the jedars were closed by the French military who filled in any entrances and laid mines in some places. After the war they were used by a shaman for quasi-Islamic fertility rituals until he was evicted by local authorities.
During the years 1968-70, an Algerian studying under Gabriel Camps at the University of Aix-Marseilles, Fatima Kadria Kadra, made the first archaeological study of the jedars to use systematic modern techniques. A book based on her thesis was published by Algiers University in 1983 and remains the definitive reference. Attempts by Camps (1995) to attribute the tombs to known Berber kings such as Mastigas and Garmul are considered speculative.
Further work has been discouraged by the unstable situation in Algeria since that time.
Numidia (202 BC – 46 BC) was an ancient Berber kingdom in modern-day Algeria and a smaller part of western Tunisia in North Africa. Numidia was originally divided between Massyliis in Eastern Numidia with Massinissa and Masaesylis in Western Numidia diriged by Syphax. It is Massinissa who historically won over Syphax and unified Numidia into one kingdom. The kingdom began as a sovereign state and later alternated between being a Roman province and being a Roman client state. The kingdom is no longer in existence today. It was located in modern Algeria, bordered by the kingdoms of Mauretania (modern-day Morocco) to the west, the Roman province of Africa (modern-day Tunisia) to the east, the Mediterranean Sea to the north, and the Sahara Desert to the south. Its people were the Numidian Berbers. It is considered to be the first major state in the history of Algeria and the Berber world.
The name Numidia was first applied by Polybius and other historians during the third century BC to indicate the territory west of Carthage, including the entire north of Algeria as far as the river Mulucha (Muluya), about 100 miles west of Oran. The Numidians were conceived of as two great tribal groups: the Massylii in eastern Numidia, and the Masaesyli in the west.
During the first part of the Second Punic War, the eastern Massylii under their king Gala were allied with Carthage, while the western Masaesyli under king Syphax were allied with Rome. However in 206 BC, the new king of the eastern Massylii, Masinissa, allied himself with Rome, and Syphax of the Masaesyli switched his allegiance to the Carthaginian side. At the end of the war the victorious Romans gave all of Numidia to Masinissa of the Massylii. At the time of his death in 148 BC, Masinissa's territory extended from Mauretania to the boundary of the Carthaginian territory, and also southeast as far as Cyrenaica, so that Numidia entirely surrounded Carthage (Appian, Punica, 106) except towards the sea.
After the death of Masinissa he was succeeded by his son Micipsa. When Micipsa died in 118, he was succeeded jointly by his two sons Hiempsal I and Adherbal and Masinissa's illegitimate grandson, Jugurtha, of Ancient Libyan origin, who was very popular among the Numidians. Hiempsal and Jugurtha quarrelled immediately after the death of Micipsa. Jugurtha had Hiempsal killed, which led to open war with Adherbal.
After Jugurtha defeated him in open battle, Adherbal fled to Rome for help. The Roman officials, allegedly due to bribes but perhaps more likely because of a desire to quickly end conflict in a profitable client kingdom, settled the fight by dividing Numidia into two parts. Jugurtha was assigned the western half. (Later Roman propaganda claimed that this half was also richer, but in truth it was both less populated and developed.)
War with Rome
By 112 Jugurtha resumed his war with Adherbal. He incurred the wrath of Rome in the process by killing some Roman businessmen who were aiding Adherbal. After a brief war with Rome, Jugurtha surrendered and received a highly favourable peace treaty, which raised suspicions of bribery once more. The local Roman commander was summoned to Rome to face corruption charges brought by his political rival Gaius Memmius. Jugurtha was also forced to come to Rome to testify against the Roman commander, where he was completely discredited once his violent and ruthless past became widely known, and after he had been suspected of murdering a Numidian rival.
War broke out between Numidia and the Roman Republic and several legions were dispatched to North Africa under the command of the Consul Quintus Caecilius Metellus Numidicus. The war dragged out into a long and seemingly endless campaign as the Romans tried to defeat Jugurtha decisively. Frustrated at the apparent lack of action, Metellus' lieutenant Gaius Marius returned to Rome to seek election as Consul. Marius was elected, and then returned to Numidia to take control of the war. He sent his Quaestor Lucius Cornelius Sulla to neighbouring Mauretania in order to eliminate their support for Jugurtha. With the help of Bocchus I of Mauretania, Sulla captured Jugurtha and brought the war to a conclusive end. Jugurtha was brought to Rome in chains and was placed in the Tullianum.
Jugurtha was executed by the Romans in 104 BC, after being paraded through the streets in Gaius Marius' Triumph.
After the death of Jugurtha, western Numidia was added to the lands of Bocchus, king of Mauretania, while the remainder (excluding Cyrene and its locality) continued to be governed by native princes until the civil war between Caesar and Pompey. After Cato the Younger was defeated by Caesar, he committed suicide (46 BC) in Utica, and Numidia became briefly the province of Africa Nova until Augustus restored Juba II (son of Juba I) after the Battle of Actium.
Soon afterwards, in 25 BC, Juba was transferred to the throne of Mauretania, and Numidia was divided between Mauretania and the province of Africa Nova. Under Septimius Severus (193 AD), Numidia was separated from Africa Vetus, and governed by an imperial procurator. Under the new organization of the empire by Diocletian, Numidia was divided in two provinces: the north became Numidia Cirtensis, with capital at Cirta, while the south, which included the Aurès Mountains and was threatened by raids, became Numidia Militiana, "Military Numidia", with capital at the legionary base of Lambaesis. Subsequently however, Emperor Constantine the Great reunited the two provinces in a single one, administered from Cirta, which was now renamed Constantina (modern Constantine, Algeria) in his honour. Its governor was raised to the rank of consularis in 320, and the province remained one of the seven provinces of the diocese of Africa until the invasion of the Vandals in 428 AD, which began its slow decay, accompanied by desertification. The province remained under Vandal rule, but was effectively limited to the coastal areas by Berber raids. It was restored to Roman rule after the Vandalic War, when it became part of the new praetorian prefecture of Africa.
Numidia became highly Romanized and was studded with numerous towns. The chief towns of Roman Numidia were: in the north, Cirta or modern Constantine, the capital, with its port Rusicada (Modern Skikda); Hippo Regius or (near Bône), well known as the see of St. Augustine. To the south in the interior military roads led to Theveste (Tebessa) and Lambaesis (Lambessa) with extensive Roman remains, connected by military roads with Cirta and Hippo, respectively.
Lambaesis was the seat of the Legio III Augusta, and the most important strategic centre, as commanding the passes of the Mons Aurasius, a mountain block which separated Numidia from the Gaetulian tribes of the desert, and which was gradually occupied in its whole extent by the Romans under the Empire. Including these towns there were altogether twenty which are known to have received at one time or another the title and status of Roman colonies; and in the 5th century the Notitia Dignitatum enumerates no less than 123 sees whose bishops assembled at Carthage in 479.
This article uses material from the Wikipedia article "Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb", "Jedars" and "Numidia", which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.