Would you like to make English your default language on this site?

Terrorism 2013-01-25

Algeria attack mastermind targets Maghreb

By Jemal Oumar for Magharebia in Nouakchott – 25/01/13

  • 6

The mastermind of the Algerian gas facility attack is well known to Maghreb security officials.

The In Amenas siege that left nearly 40 civilians dead last week is the latest terror operation by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, also known as Khaled Abou El Abbas or Laaouar.

For nearly 20 years, the one-eyed terrorist has left a bloody trail across Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Niger and Mali.

Born in Ghardaia in 1972, Belmokhtar fought in Afghanistan before returning to Algeria in 1993, where he joined the Armed Islamic Group (GIA). He eventually linked up with the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), which became al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

In recent years, Belmokhtar took charge of AQIM's El Moulethemine Brigade. Amid leadership disputes and internal quarrelling over ransom payments, he broke away from AQIM last fall, while still affirming loyalty to the global al-Qaeda network.

In a video released January 17th, Laaouar claimed credit for the Algeria attack. He blamed the siege in part on Algeria's support for the international military intervention in Mali, where Belmokhtar and other al-Qaeda leaders have taken refuge.

Belmokhtar has used his ties across the Sahel-Saharan region to build his operation.

"He is the first to penetrate the social fabric of the Touareg and Arabs of northern Mali and the Sahara in general. He wove relationships with various tribal leaders by virtue of intermarriage and money," explained Sid Ahmed Ould Abdel Kader, a Sahel expert and veteran of the 1990s Touareg rebellion.

"Laaouar was married in Azawad and local brokers managed his money," he said.

"The Libyan revolution also contributed to his rise by weapons and new recruits available," analyst Abdul Hamid Ansari pointed out.

The transnational nature of the terrorist's activity highlights the need for Maghreb and Sahel states to co-operate on security, experts say.

"Such co-operation could provide security for their people and protect their borders from the threat of terrorism," Mauritanian analyst Bechir Ould Banah told Magharebia.

He added, "If co-operation had taken place to the required extent, the terrorist Laaouar and his group would not have been able to infiltrate and threaten the interests of the region for over a decade."

"All countries of the Maghreb should go beyond the narrow view of borders when it comes to security and the war of terror," the analyst concluded.

Analyst Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Mohamed Ahmed agreed with the need for a concerted approach to security.

"The number one reason that Laaouar can pose a threat is the lack of security co-ordination between the countries of the Maghreb, due to political differences lurking beneath the surface," he said.

After Belmokhtar separated from AQIM and created his own brigade, he was able to expand his terrain, security expert and strategic analyst Hamdi Ould Dah noted.

Because of the new terror map, a pan-Maghreb approach is needed, Ould Dah said, adding that this would require "a lot of co-ordination among Libya, Algeria, Tunisia and, to some extent, Mauritania".

"This is true if we don't want to see the phenomenon of Laaouar repeated in all the countries of the Maghreb," he warned.

"Obviously, what is needed from these countries is more caution, more intelligence and security co-operation," Touareg columnist Intagrist El Ansari told Magharebia.

The Touareg added, however, that "all these measures would only be effective if these countries moved beyond their political differences".

"They have a common and dangerous enemy in sleeper cells," El Ansari said.

What do you think of this article?


Subscribe to our newsletter and get Magharebia's latest articles delivered to your inbox.


Anonymous thumb

You are not signed in. Anonymous comments are subject to moderation. Sign up to have your comment posted immediately - Learn more

Or post your comment using:


  1. Anonymous thumb

    zamomoh 2013-3-6

    All the bearded people—and I do mean all of them—have something to be blamed for and they want to impose themselves on the true Muslims. I cannot find a single one of these Devil's acolytes who is normal in the psychological sense of the word. They are all crazy and they have harmed Islam. For as long as these good-for-nothings are alive, Muslims will be frowned upon by others. Take the example of the FIS Algerian, which is a motley cult made up of all the under class of Algerian society and which harms only the Muslims. And if you dare attack the Jews, that's when you deflate like your leader, Bin Laden. May he go to Hell...


  2. Anonymous thumb

    Diab 2013-1-29

    Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost! Our brothers in the Maghreb and elsewhere suddenly wake-up when the heat of the fire nears their homes. But when their neighbour’s house has already been scorched, they make up a story linking the pyromaniac to the victim. Others, more cynical people have taken it further, encouraging a government takeover in Algeria by the Islamists to serve as a laboratory (as according to Hassan II). As for the Middle East, that’s where the virus (Wahhabism) was imported into Algeria from, particularly by their alliance with Uncle Sam against the USSR in the Afghan conflict. Because of our neighbours outrageous positions and the West’s (particularly France’s) positions, which cultivate the infamous “I don’t know who’s killing whom” in Algeria, terrorists engulfed Algeria, which nearly disappeared before the challenge that its authentic children overcame without the help of any neighbour, much less brother. The sacrifices were certainly enormous, but Algeria remains standing. So, to our neighbours who are also our brothers, I say every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost! And stop your endless talks about stories from experts in terrorism; you can only find them in Algeria.


  3. Anonymous thumb

    alloua 2013-1-29

    You are just a coward and you will die like a dog.


  4. Anonymous thumb

    fathi199575 2013-1-27

    Long live Algeria, Algeria! Algeria is mother of the world in everything! Viva Algeria free and independent. Viva, God willing, the Palestinian people in peace and security! God willing, Palestine will be liberated. We must fight with the power of the arm, not the words. As for words, we all talk without going to action. If Algeria were on the border of Palestine, it would have probably been liberated.


  5. Anonymous thumb

    antoine 2013-1-25

    Your time draws near. The vice is tightening and you and your likes are going to pay. You are going to regret that you were born into this world. I’m sure that you are going to regret it when you fall into the hands of the people tracking you. Your heads is already worth $5 million. Look at the example of your likes—of Zwahiri, Bin Laden and others—lot of people will be quite happy in seeing you die like a dog. I wouldn’t want to be in your position.


  6. Anonymous thumb

    ammar 2013-1-25

    Algeria is considered to be one of the top countries in fighting terrorism given its long experience in fighting terrorism. It has acquired military experience and knows how to strike this terrorism in the heart. Moreover, it is no secret that these rebellious groups are always seeking to undermine stability of developing and progressing countries. Thus, this serves interests of the West. Therefore, I call upon Maghreb countries to put their differences aside and join hands against any attack which strikes their development interests as a solid united Maghreb territory. Ammar, Algeria.