Al Qaeda in northern Africa an "afterthought" no more
Armed youth in AQIM video released in 2011
February 1st, 2012
07:34 PM ET

Al Qaeda in northern Africa an "afterthought" no more

By Joe Sterling

A terrorist peril that's notorious in Africa and Europe but less publicly well known in the United States may wreak havoc in the coming year, warns the top senator on intelligence matters.

The terror group, an al Qaeda affiliate in northern Africa known as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) was singled out by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, who chairs the Senate's intelligence committee.

"For the past few years, AQIM has been almost an afterthought when discussing the terrorist threat. This may be about to change," she said on Tuesday during a hearing.

A report issued by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper ahead of the intelligence committee hearing made brief reference to AQIM when discussing al Qaeda's regional affiliates. Feinstein said the intelligence community needs to be ready to tackle the militant movement.

AQIM has been classified by the United States as a foreign terrorist organization and has conducted suicide bombings and kidnappings in Algeria, Niger, Mali, and Mauritania.

One example of the group's brutality occurred five years ago. Two nearly simultaneous suicide attacks - against a U.N. target and the Algerian Constitutional Council - killed 42 people.

Feinstein's remarks come as violence and instability flare in other regions of the continent - Libya and Nigeria.

"Recent public records point out that AQIM, which has traditionally operated in parts of Algeria and Mali, is well positioned to exploit instability and pockets of extremism in Libya and Nigeria, and to create new safe havens," she said.

Even though the government led by late dictator Moammar Gadhafi has been ousted from power, fighting has raged between rival militias in Libya.

In Nigeria - Africa's most populous nation - tensions have raged between Muslims and Christians. An Islamic militant group called Boko Haram has staged many attacks in recent weeks.

As for kidnappings, Feinstein notes reports about "tens of millions of dollars AQIM has received from ransom payments for hostages and other illicit activities."

In December, Daniel Benjamin, the State Department's coordinator for counterterrorism, said that while the group has been "historically the weakest of the major AQ affiliates," it has in recent years filled its "coffers with ransoms from kidnappings."

Benjamin said other al Qaeda groups are adopting the practice "to considerable advantage thanks to the willingness of wealty Western nationals to pay off the hostage-takers."

He also noted that "these newfound resources together with AQIM efforts to take advantage of the recent flux-instability in Libya have raised concern about this group's trajectory."

"Of particular concern are both the issue of terrorist transit in light of instability in Libya, and the threat posted by loose munitions that were previously under Libyan government control," Benjamin said.

Andrew Lebovich, a researcher at the New America Foundation think thank, said there is much more awareness about the group among the French and others who have been singled out by AQIM.

AQIM killed an American teacher three years ago in Mauritania, but American entities haven't been targeted. Because Americans and U.S. business basically haven't been targeted, they don't "know how to conceptualize the threat," Lebovich said.

"The government isn't sure how to understand them, what kind of threat they actually pose," he added.

EU Counter-terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove said last year that "what is concerning about AQIM is that it's a group that's Africanizing and is trying to extend its zone of influence,"

soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Arturo Manzur

    Someone essentially assist to make seriously posts I'd state. This is the first time I frequented your website page and up to now? I amazed with the analysis you made to create this actual post amazing. Magnificent task!

    March 4, 2021 at 10:11 am | Reply
  2. pc repair

    Somebody essentially help to make seriously posts I would state. This is the first time I frequented your website page and thus far? I surprised with the research you made to create this particular publish incredible. Great job!

    February 21, 2021 at 5:33 am | Reply

    You made some decent points there. I looked on the internet for the issue and found most guys will agree with your blog.

    February 9, 2021 at 3:46 am | Reply
  4. wow core foros

    Llorar a mares.

    February 4, 2021 at 6:20 pm | Reply
  5. Viola Chrosniak

    January 28, 2021 at 10:13 pm | Reply
  6. froleprotrem

    Some really good blog posts on this internet site, appreciate it for contribution. "We are always in search of the redeeming formula, the crystallizing thought." by Etty Hillesum.

    January 14, 2021 at 6:10 pm | Reply
  7. Norah Whitlach

    Free games online… [...]When I initially commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get four emails with the same comment. Is there any way you can remove me from that service? Thanks![...]…

    January 11, 2021 at 10:59 pm | Reply
  8. Breanne Randoll

    January 11, 2021 at 2:36 am | Reply
  9. zortilo nrel

    I will immediately grab your rss feed as I can't find your e-mail subscription link or newsletter service. Do you've any? Please let me know so that I could subscribe. Thanks.

    January 5, 2021 at 8:59 pm | Reply
  10. Sgt. Fury & His Howling Faggots

    Sexy lookin' bastards.

    February 2, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Reply
  11. Zero

    Oh, so Northern Africa has oil now?

    February 2, 2012 at 8:11 am | Reply
  12. Beefburger

    Now the liberals are doing what they accused the "neo-cons" of doing? Sabre rattling in an election year, go figure.

    February 2, 2012 at 2:32 am | Reply
  13. A Pissin'-on-the-dead-kinda-guy



    February 2, 2012 at 12:50 am | Reply
  14. Jon

    Wow who would have known. See what we get from our intelligence?

    February 2, 2012 at 12:05 am | Reply
  15. mipolitic

    there is boggie men everywhere, how about confronting the one thatonly have the assest to act the west or our interest. we should not chase bad guy anywhere and every where . iran is building a nuke , and the result of this could be world changing. lets get out of countries inwhich have no loyalties to the west at their core, and focus on threats that only have the means to strike us .

    February 1, 2012 at 11:47 pm | Reply
    • ranger 830

      Lets not forget our old friend Pakistan!!!!!!!

      February 2, 2012 at 10:44 am | Reply
  16. Hahahahahahaha

    Islame is a vile, oppressive, dangerous, and violent cult. Hahahahahahahahahaha

    February 1, 2012 at 9:03 pm | Reply
    • Exterminan

      Islam is not vile. It is the violent thugs that make up al Qaeda and the taliban that desecrate the word of Mohammed

      February 2, 2012 at 4:26 am | Reply

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.