Al-Qaeda confirms Belhadj death
By Nazim Fethi for Magharebia in Algiers – 03/08/11
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) on Monday (August 1st) released a video confirming that the son of former Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) leader Ali Belhadj was among those killed in a failed terrorist attack in Thenia last week.
In a video posted on jihadist websites, al-Qaeda said that "Mouaaouiya", a pseudonym for Abdelkahar Belhadj, was among those killed at a military checkpoint in Thenia on July 25th. The terror network claimed the jihadist "blew himself up" rather than being killed by security forces, as reported in some newspapers. The AQIM statement added that Abdelkahar was a key figure in the organisation because he had "encouraged young people to wage jihad".
The admission put an end to uncertainty created by the terrorist's father and relatives, who had refused to believe the news until the body of the 23-year-old was returned to them. On Friday at a mosque in Kouba, Belhadj reiterated his call for the authorities to tell him "the truth as to whether my son has died, to release the body so that I can bury him, and if he is not dead, I ask that they stop this campaign, which is upsetting my whole family".
The day after al-Qaeda's statement, Ali Belhadj maintained his position. On Tuesday, he went to his local police station for confirmation.
"The security services told me that they would keep me informed if my son's death was confirmed," Belhadj told journalists. Despite the AQIM confirmation, the former FIS leader did not believe the news. "I won't believe the reports or information in the press until I see my son's body," he said.
Belhadj's son died along with two associates in a vehicle that was supposed to take them to Algiers so that they could carry out a "spectacular" attack just before the beginning of Ramadan. However, the security services foiled the attack thanks to one of the three would-be bombers, who informed his family of their plans and his intention to surrender to security officers.
Government forces then set up a roadblock to intercept the vehicle when it reached the town of Thenia, less than 40km east of Algiers. Having refused to stop at the roadblock, the two other suicide bombers decided to blow themselves up.
Belhadj's son joined the terrorist organisation in September, 2006. For several months, his father accused the authorities of kidnapping his son until he obtained hard evidence of what had happened: a video showing his son with the terrorist group. Abdelkahar had been placed in the Al-Andalous propaganda group and was close to the leader of AQIM, Abdelmalek Droukdel, who hoped to benefit from his father's high profile.
Ali Belhadj himself never condemned the use of violence by terrorist groups. While imprisoned in 1994, he sent a letter to then-leader of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), Cherif Gousmi, to tell him that if he were a free man, he would be one of his soldiers.
To date, the Algerian government has not issued any official statement on Abdelkahar's death. In online discussion forums used by young people, however, most contributors accused the former FIS official of playing a part in the tragedy that befell Algeria.
"More than two hundred thousand people have died because of you and you dare to come and whine about your terrorist son?" one commenter posted.
In the same forum, another commentator criticised Ali Belhadj for the fact he "never condemned terrorism; quite the reverse".
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