Sunday’s twin terrorist attacks in Algeria, which have been attributed to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb show a change in the terrorist organization’s operating mode as illustrated by their use of mobile phones to trigger the bombing devices.
The technology employed in the attacks appear to have been streamlined. The explosives were made from basic products available on the Internet.
“This evolution owes a lot to new skills among those who joined the organization,” said Mathieu Guidère, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Center for Advanced Defense Studies (CADS). “These newcomers, who are often on their way back from Iraq and Afghanistan, benefitted from a solid field expertise, which enables them to take on various operations in Algeria and coach new recruits,” he added on the FRANCE 24 Debate.
The double suicide bombing, an Al Qaeda trademark
The organization Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has not as yet claimed responsibility for the attacks. There is no communiqué to be found on jihadist websites affiliated to the organization. “This silence may have to do with the organization’s inability to access Web sites that are controlled by Algerian authorities,” said Guidère said. But the attacks bear the mark of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, he added. “The double suicide attacks are the modus operandi of al Qaeda in Afghanistan as well as in Iraq.”
Since it merged with al Qaeda, becoming the North African wing of the organization, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) has changed its goals and strategic targets. Its main target is not so much the Algerian government as Western interests.
According to experts, this change in target reflects the growing US presence in Algeria. The FBI is scheduled to open in the region, according to media reports, as part of a new unified armed command for Africa (AFRICOM.) Launched by the Bush administration on Feb. 6, 2007, AFRICOM should start operating as of Sept. 30, 2008.
According to Jean-Louis Bruguière, a former French anti-terrorist judge, “the activities of Al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb have intensified in the Algerian southern Sahara region, in particular along the 1,800 kilometer-long Malian border, which is very difficult to control.” This partly explains why the Islamist organization is well-established there. It controls “channels to smuggle arms inside the country,” said the retired judge.