Terrorism Profiles

Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)

Alternative Names:

Tanzim Qaedat bi-Bilad al-Maghrab al-Islami, Tanzim al-Qa´ida fi bilad al-Maghreb al-Islamiya, The Organization of Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, Al-Qa´ida Organisation in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb, Al-Qa´ida in the Islamic Maghreb, Al-Qa´ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb, al-Qaïda dans les pays du Maghreb islamique, Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC), Groupe salafiste pour la prédication et le combat, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat

Location:

The Sahara and Sahel: Niger, Mauritania, Northern Mali.

Leadership:

Abdelmalek Droukdel has led the group since 2004. He was sentenced to death with 24 other alleged terrorists, by an Algerian court in February 2015. It is known that many of AQIM’s leaders have trained with other terrorist cell leaders, such as Osama bin Laden, during the war in Afghanistan (1979-1989). After this war many returned to the Middle East and Northern Africa radicalized.

Membership:

The group is divided into brigades, which are organized in often-independent cells. AQIM is seen as a syndicate of groups who come together episodically for varying criminal and terrorist purposes. 

Funding Sources:

The group raises money through kidnapping for ransom and trafficking arms, vehicles, cigarettes, and persons. Kidnappings not only raise funds, but also facilitate prisoner exchanges and discourage foreign enterprise in the region

Origins:

AQIM originated as the Groupe Islamique Armeé (Armed Islamic Group or GIA). In 1998, believing that the GIA’s tactics were sufficiently brutal enough to hurt the Islamist cause, a splinter of the GIA broke away and declared independence. The new group named itself ‘The Groupe salafiste pour la prédication et le combat (Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC)’, and gained support from the Algerian population by vowing to continue fighting the government while avoiding the indiscriminate killing of civilians. The GSPC merged with Al Qaida in September 2006, changing its name to Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). AQIM is said to be the most effective and largest extremist armed group inside Algeria. The adoption of a global jihad ideology came with its Al Qaida merger.

Major Attacks:

1998: From 1998 to 2003, the GSPC conducted a series of guerilla-style attacks using small arms, in addition to mortar, rocket, and IED attacks on Algerian Government targets.

April 2003: Took 32 Europeans hostage in Northern Mali. All but one of the hostages were ransomed for a total of $6 million with the remaining hostage dying from unknown causes. (1 killed)

2007: AQIM claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing attack in the Algerian city of Batna, targetting Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. (20 killed, unknown wounded)

December 2007: AQIM conducted simultaneous bombing attacks on the Algerian Constitutional Court and the UN Regional Headquarters. (33 killed, unknown wounded)

August 19, 2008: AQIM perpetrated a suicide car bombing at a police college in Issers, Algeria. (48 killed, unknown wounded)

May 2009: AQIM released a statement announcing that it had killed a British hostage following months of failed negotiations for his release. (1 killed)

June 2009: AQIM claimed to have killed U.S. citizen Christopher Legget in Mauritania because of his missionary activities. In 2011 an Algerian court sentenced an AQIM member to death and two others to jail for Legget’s murder. (1 killed)

March 2012: Following a coup in Mali launched by Tuareg insurgents, AQIM and its allies, Ansar al-Din (AD) and the Movement for Tawhid and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), launched an offensive in Mali, eventually taking control of Northern Mali. However, by January of 2013, a French operation pushed AQIM and its allies back out of most of the country.

September 11, 2012: AQIM has been implicated in the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, which resulted in the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens as well as three other Americans. (4 killed, 10+ wounded)

May 2014: AQIM claimed responsibility for killing four policemen outside the home of the Tunisian Interior Minister. (4 killed, unknown wounded)

May 31, 2015: AQIM claimed responsibility for a mine that was triggered by a UN convoy in Mali. (3 killed, unknown wounded)

January 15, 2016: AQIM militants attacked a café and two hotels in the heart of Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. A total of 176 hostages were eventually released. (30 killed, 56 wounded)

Ideological Roots:

 See Al Qaida. Unlike Al Qaida core, however, AQIM is said to blend global Salafi-jihadist dogma with regionally resonant elements, including references to the early Islamic conquest of the Maghreb and the Iberian Peninsula.

Objectives:

According to West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center, AQIM’s objectives include: ridding North Africa of Western influence, overthrowing governments deemed apostate, and installing fundamentalist regimes based on sharia law.

AQIM has declared Spain and France its foremost “far enemies.” Due to its long history as the regional colonial power, France is placed above Spain in this list of enemies. AQIM leaders threaten to stage attacks in France regularly, and praised the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris in January 2015.

Tactics:

AQIM’s tactics include guerrilla-style raids, assassinations, and suicide bombings of military, government, and civilian targets. Its members have frequently kidnapped, and sometimes executed, aid workers, tourists, diplomats, and employees of multinational corporations. For example in December 2007, the group’s most famous attack used simultaneous bombings of the regional UN headquarters and the Algerian Constitutional Court to kill 38 people.

Updated November 13, 2015

References


  1. "AL-QA'IDA IN THE LANDS OF THE ISLAMIC MAGHREB (AQIM)." National Counterterrorism Centre. Accessed October 15, 2015. http://www.nctc.gov/site/groups/aqim.html.
  2. "Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)." Counter Extremism Project. Accessed October 15, 2015. http://www.counterextremism.com/threat/al-qaeda-islamic-maghreb-aqim
  3. "al Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) - (Salafist Group for Preaching and Fighting (see separate entry)." Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortum. Accessed October 15, 2015. http://www.trackingterrorism.org/group/al-qaeda-lands-islamic-maghreb-aqim-salafist-group-preaching-and-fighting-see-separate-entry.
  4. Filiu, Jean-Pierre. "Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb: Algerian Challenge or Global Threat?" Carnegie Papers. Last modified October 2009. Accessed October 15, 2015. http://carnegieendowment.org/files/al-qaeda_islamic_maghreb.pdf.
  5. "Currently Listed Entities." Public Safety Canada. Last modified November 20, 2014. Accessed July 30, 2015. http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/ntnl-scrt/cntr-trrrsm/lstd-ntts/crrnt-lstd-ntts-eng.aspx#2057.
  6. Laub, Zachary. "Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)." Edited by Jonathan Masters. Council on Foreign Relations. Last modified March 27, 2015. Accessed October 15, 2015. http://www.cfr.org/terrorist-organizations-and-networks/al-qaeda-islamic-maghreb-aqim/p12717.
  7. The Government of the UK. "Proscribed Terrorist Organizations." Home Office. Last modified March 27,2015. Accessed July 30, 2015. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/417888/Proscription-20150327.pdf.
  8. "Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb." Mapping Militant Organizations. Stanford University. Last Modified November 17, 2015. Accessed February 12, 2016. http://web.stanford.edu/group/mappingmilitants/cgi-bin/groups/view/65?highlight=AQIM
  9. Karimi, Faith and Sandra Betsis. "Burkina Faso attack: At least 29 dead, scores freed after hotel siege." CNN Africa. Last Modified January 18, 2016. Accessed February 12, 2016.
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