Al-Qaeda video masks deep fissures within group
By Nazim Fethi for Magharebia in Algiers – 10/05/2007
A video showing preparations for the April 11th terrorist attacks in Algeria and featuring statements by terrorists could be an attempt to mask fissures within the terrorist group that perpetrated the killings, Algerian analysts have said.
The video, aired by the Al-Jazeera satellite network on Tuesday (May 8th), allegedly showed members of the al-Qaeda Organisation in the Islamic Maghreb fitting three cars with explosives, and featured statements by the suicide bombers taped before they leave to carry out the attacks. The attacks occurred simultaneously on the morning of April 11th, near government offices and a police station in Algiers, killing 33 and injuring 54 others.
The tape also contains an address by the organisation's leader Abdelmalek Deroukdel, alias Abou Moussab Abdelwadoud, urging Algerian youths to join him.
Many Algerian analysts have suggested the video was released to counter a wave of criticism levelled by some of the terrorist group's members, who have recently challenged the bloody strategy the leaders of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) have adopted since announcing their alliance with al-Qaeda.
"This umpteenth pronouncement by the leader Deroukdel is part of their brainwashing strategy, and is evidence of the gravity of the situation within the terrorist group, which is facing internal disputes which threaten to blow it apart," commented Anis Rahmani, managing editor of Algerian newspaper Ech Chourouk. "This situation is similar to that which the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) went through in 1997 and 98, when a number of leaders expressed disapproval of the collective killings perpetrated against civilians by leader Antar Zouabri," he added. Rahmani cited as an example GSPC founder Hassan Hattab, who left the GIA because of his opposition to the killing of civilians.
Ikram Ghioua, a writer for the Algerian daily L’Expression, said that "the suicide bombing route chosen by the leader of the al-Qaeda network has given rise to a tremendous fitna (discord) in the ranks of the armed groups which are still active in the interior of the country, and has broken through the deadly intransigence exhibited by some leaders". According to Ghioua, Deroukdal "is facing real opposition from many of these elements, which have yet to be convinced by the methods al-Qaeda has been using in Iraq".
Hattab had reacted to the April 11th attacks by denouncing the "drift" by the group he founded, and also stated his readiness to lay down his weapons, along with a hundred of his followers, to further the cause of the charter for peace and national reconciliation. Also last month, the group’s southern leader, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, alias Laaouar, also announced his intentions to lay down arms in support of the charter. Belmokhtar is said to possess so much influence in the terrorist sphere that many analysts feel his announcement heralds a real schism in the movement. It was Belmokhtar, through his extensive network in Algeria and the neighbouring countries, who ensured that the fighters in the north of the country were supplied with weapons.
Brahim Boufarik, one-time top official in the Algerian branch of al-Qaeda, concurred, speaking with local press about the rising tide of disagreement among the group's leaders over the new tactics being employed. Boufarik was quoted as saying by Ech Chorouk on Tuesday that the group's "national leader has appointed young recruits to head up local sections, to marginalise longer-standing members who oppose his new strategy".
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