Cridem has a report here on the leader of the new AQIM splinter group, “The Unity and Jihad Group in West Africa”. It profiles Hamada Ould Mohamed El Khaîry (Khairou), an alleged leader and his activities over the years from burka-wearing escapee, explosive-handling arrestee to sun-glass toting leader.
Another piece has more on the developments concerning the individuals arrested in November 2011, of particular interest are the comments on Mohamed Salem Ould Mohamed Lemine (al-Majilissi).
As has been noted elsewhere Liberation carried a report derived from its access to a French judicial report based on an interview with a Mauritanian militant present during the attempt to rescue two French nationals kidnapped in Niamey, Niger which ended in both being killed. The articles are now available here and here.
They also have a report in todays paper about Adelene Hicheur, an academic arrested and currently in pre-trial detention. The article contains details on the correspondence between Hicheur and the AQIM member. Of interest are the comments by Hicheur about activity in the real world and activity on the web.
“Adlène Hicheur ne cesse de le marteler depuis plus de deux ans : protégé par l’anonymat de la Toile, ne sachant pas précisément à qui il s’adressait, il s’est laissé griser et embarquer dans des propos dépassant sa pensée. Evoquant le caractère «fantaisiste» de certaines de ses adresses sur des forums islamistes, Adlène Hicheur a expliqué: «Cela veut dire que c’est une adresse du monde web détachée de ma vie […]. Je fais la différence entre les personnes physiques que je connais et qui appartiennent à mon cercle de vie et les pseudos qui appartiennent à une réalité déconnectée. C’est vraiment du virtuel.»” (Liberation, 2012, January 10).
Given that the Hicheur investigation is the last time that an AQIM associated plot, if it can really be called that, was disrupted in Europe, the article is revealing. If the raids and arrests of the 1990s and early 2000s (1998 World Cup, Strasbourg, Chechen network etc) are compared with recent investigations there is a difference in size and capacity of the networks. Perhaps those inspired into activism by the FIS or GIA or their Afghanistan connections have to some extent found other things to do and AQIM’s messaging into Europe does not seem to be attracting comparable levels of activism and interest?
According to Liberation, the Hicheur case will go to trial in the next 3 months.
Tassel, F. (2012, January 10). “Grand Angle: Psuedo jihadiste”. Liberation