The Hostage Kidnapping in Algeria Was Planned Before France's Mali Intervention

(Jerusalem Post) Ely Karmon - The hostage-taking at the Algerian BP facility has only indirect connection with the French intervention in Mali, and was planned many weeks or even months before the Mali incident. The attack is connected with the in-fighting among the various factions of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Mokhtar Belmokhtar, head of AQIM's southern Sahara unit, is in conflict with the present emir of AQIM, Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud, who refused to nominate him as emir. It was reported that Belmokhtar split from AQIM, or was expelled from the organization, in the last months of 2012. In spite of AQIM's and its allies' advances in northern Mali, Algerian military forces have been successful in killing and arresting some 200 militants and leaders on Algerian territory since August 2012. It is possible that the main goal of Mokhtar Belmokhtar in this major terrorist operation was to enhance his position in the fight for the leadership of AQIM. If successful, the operation could have brought him an important ransom to finance his group's future activities. The decision by the Algerian government to act so quickly was in order to hamper any attempt by the terrorists to blow up this important gas field, as gas and oil exports are the main source of revenue for the government. Another factor was the desire to show the Algerian people the determination of the government to fight the Islamist terrorists at any price to stop the advance of the Islamist wave. The Algerian military's long war against the Islamists since 1992 has cost the lives of 100,000-150,000 Algerians. The writer is a senior research scholar at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.

2013-01-21 00:00:00

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