A (self) congratulatory message from Abdelmalek Droukdel, the head of AQIM, (available at Jihadology) to the “Descendants of ‘Umar al-Mukhtār” and a recent CTC report on a spike in AQIM violence, again focus discussion on how much of a threat the group is inside Algeria and regionally (AQIM; 2011, Lebovich; 2011).
AQIM involvement in Tunisia and Libya has been the source of speculation, much of it unsourced, suggesting planning and operations by AQIM’s Sahel leaders to implant themselves in both countries (El Watan; 2011).
In August 2011, Marc Trevidic, a French anti-terrorist judge in an interview with the AFP suggested that, “It’s been shown that AQIM is only able to strike in its own zone, by wanting to kill tourists — and we have seen nothing emerge as a significant foreign operation in Europe that was really organized by AQIM…” (AFP, 2011). The article did note the Spanish authorities seemed more concerned citing comments made in June by the Spanish Interior Minister (AFP, 2011).
In late September 2011, the Spanish Guardia Civil announced that they had arrested five individuals, described as Algerian citizens all aged between 36-49, for their suspected involvement in financing AQIM. (Guardia Civil; 2011) This is the first arrest of an AQIM affiliated group in Europe in quite sometime. On 1 October 2011, El Pais reported that the 5 had been released on bail by the Spanish court as the judge was not convinced of the evidence presented by Guardia Civil (El Pais; 2011)
Maghrebia (2011) reported on the 28 September 2011, that the Moroccan authorities had also dismantled a network and arrested 5 persons. The network is named as the Al Battar Squad. According to the report, there was planning to travel to AQIM camps by members of the groups. One of the individuals arrested had previously served prison time for activities in an Iraq-linked network. A report in Aujourd’hui La Maroc (2011) suggested that one of the members was linked to a deceased Swedish-Moroccan national who was a ranking al-Qaeda in Iraq cadre.
On the 29 September 2011, the authorities in Niger announced the results of their investigation into the mid-September arrest of 59 suspected AQIM recruits (La Griffe Mercredi; 2011). The 59 were Niger nationals and the arrest had resulted in the death of the truck driver who was transporting the group (Tahalil Hebdo; 2011). The investigation had found that the group was traveling to Algeria and had no connections to AQIM (Tahalil Hebdo; 2011).
In a separate development in Morocco, the on-going trial of those alleged to have been involved in the Marrakech bombing has given some insight into the group and its activities. All nine of the accused deny their involvement in the bombing. Some of the suspects have given statements in court about their activities and links. Hakim Bah stated that he had travelled in Mauritania, Mali and Algeria to trade in mobile phones, not for jihad. Abdessamad El Battar said that he had travelled to Mauritanian in 2007 to study Islam (Jeune Afrique; 2011).
AQIM. (2011). al-Andalus Media presents a new video message from the Amīr of al-Qā’idah in the Islamic Maghreb Abū Muṣ’ab ‘Abd al-Wadūd (‘Abd al-Malik Drūkdīl): “Congratulations on the Victory of the Descendants of ‘Umar al-Mukhtār”
Lebovich, A. (2011). AQIM Returns in Force in Northern Algeria, Andrew Lebovich, CTC Sentinel 4 (9)
AP. (2011, August 7). AP Exclusive: al-Qaida branch won’t attack Europe
El Watan. (2011, May 20). Le livre qui révèle les plans secrets d’ AQMI, El Watan
Ministerio del Interior. (2011, September 27). La Guardia Civil detiene a cinco personas vinculadas con una célula que financiaba a grupos de la red terrorista de Al Qaeda en el Magreb Islámico, Ministerio del Interior
El Pais. (2011, 28 September). Cinco arrestados en el País Vasco y Navarra por financiar a Al Qaeda, El Pais,
Lahcen, M. (2011, September 28). Morocco breaks up al-Qaeda cell, Magharebia
Xinhua. (2011, October 02). Démantèlement d’une cellule terroriste opérant à Casablanca et Salé, Xinhua
Harmach, A. (2011, October 3). Lutte antiterrorisme : Un réseau de cinq activistes cybernétiques démantelé, Aujoud’hui Le Maroc
Jeune Afrique. (2011, September 30). Maroc : les neuf accusés de l’attentat de Marrakech nient les faits, Jeune Afrique
La Griffe Mercredi (2011, October 5). AFFAIRE DES 59 PERSONNES ARRÊTÉES AU NORD D’ARLIT ET ACCUSÉES D’APPARTENIR À AQMI : QUI A MENTI CONTRE L’ETAT DU NIGER ? La Griffe Mercredi.
Tahalil Hebdo. (2011, October 1). Le Niger libère 59 jeunes accusés d’être des recrues d’Aqmi. Tahalil Hebdo.