Spanish police escort a man arrested allegedly for aiding groups linked to al-Qaida
in downtown Barcelona, Spain, on Tuesday June 10, 2008 (AP).

Rise of Algerian Terrorists Puts al-Qaida’s Strength in Context

June 12, 2008 09:35 AM
by Josh Katz
Spanish police arrested eight men linked to a terrorist group allied with al-Qaida on Tuesday, igniting debate over al-Qaida’s true intercontinental reach.

30-Second Summary

A group called Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb has claimed responsibility for the killings of 41 people and 17 United Nations members in the suicide bombings of UN buildings and government offices that occurred last December.

Just last Sunday the group detonated two bombs in Algeria, killing 13 people. A French engineer and his driver were among the dead. Also, in February 2008, the group kidnapped two Austrian tourists in Tunisia and has not yet released them, according to The New York Times.

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb changed its name from the Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC) in January 2007, when it declared its alliance with al-Qaida. The terrorist group began as an opposition movement to the secular, Algerian military government in the early 1990s.

The recent activities of al-Qaida in Iraq call attention to the status of the larger al-Qaida organization. The group’s status has been in question ever since director of the CIA General Michael Hayden said two weeks ago that al-Qaida has faced a "near-strategic defeat" in Iraq.

CIA officer Marc Sageman agreed with this assessment in his book “Leaderless Jihad,” arguing that al-Qaida lacks the strong central network that it once had and now consists of ragtag groups of amateur terrorists.

Hayden and Sageman’s optimistic accounts differ from a recent Los Angeles Times article that quotes a top U.S. general as saying, “Al Qaeda leaders have set up their most secure haven since the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan” in the tribal regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Headline Links: Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb points to strength of al-Qaida

Background: The status of al-Qaida and the GSPC

Key Player: The GSPC

Opinion & Analysis: Debating al-Qaida’s strength

Related Topic: ‘As Terrorism Changes, So Does Its Terminology’


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