Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb: Who’s Who’s? Who is Behind the Terrorists? by Prof M. Chossudovsky

Posted: January 21, 2013 in Emergencies, Human Rights, Middle East, News, USA, war, Western Censored News
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Global Research, January 21, 2013

Who is behind the terrorist group which attacked the BP -Statoil-Sonatrach In Amenas Gas Field located directly on the Libyan border in south eastern Algeria?  (see map below)

The operation was coordinated by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, leader of the Al Qaeda affiliated Islamist al-Mulathameen (Masked) Brigade.

Belmokhtar took responsibility on behalf of Al Qaeda for the kidnapping of 41 Western hostages including 7 Americans at the BP In Mena gas field complex.

Belmokthar, however, was not directly involved in the actual attack. The field commander of the operation was Abdul Rahman al-Nigeri, a veteran jihadist fighter from Niger, who joined Algeria’s Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) in 2005. (Albawaba,  January 17, 2012)

The In Amenas kidnapping operation five days after the conduct of air strikes by France directed against Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) forces in northern Mali.

French special forces and Malian troops regained control of Diabaly and Konna, two small towns North of Mopti, which had fallen in rebel hands.

The town of Diabaly had apparently been taken over a few days earlier by fighters led by one of the leading AQIM commanders Abdelhamid Abou Zeid.

While the terrorist attack and kidnapping directed against the BP In Mena Gas plant was described as an act of revenge, it was not in any way improvised, Confirmed by analysts, the operation  had in all likelihood been planned well in advance:

“European and U.S. officials say the raid was almost certainly too elaborate to have been planned in so short a time, although the French campaign could have been one trigger for fighters to launch an assault they had already prepared.”

According to the official statements of the British and French governments, the hostages had been killed or executed by their captors. News reports confirm, however, that a large number of the deaths of both the hostages and the Islamic fighters was the result of the bombing raids led by Algerian forces. “The deaths were incurred when Algerian forces bombed the compound, leading to the deaths of 23 hostages and 32 militants.”

Following the kidnapping of hostages operation, negotiations with the captors, which could have saved lives, were neither contemplated by the Algerian or Western governments. Al Qaeda leader Belmokhtar had stated:

“We are ready to negotiate with the West and the Algerian government provided they stop their bombing of Mali’s Muslims”

Within the ranks of the jihadists were mercenaries from a number of Muslim countries including Libya (yet to be confirmed) as well as fighters from Western countries.

 The Al Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIQ). Who’s Who’s? 

There are a number of affiliated groups which are actively involved in northern Mali: Al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Ansar Ed-Dine led by Iyad Ag Ghaly and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA).

The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad  (MNLA) is a Tuareg secular nationalist and independence movement.

In September 2006, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) joined forces with Al Qaeda. In January 2007,  the group officially changed its name to the “Al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Also in early 2007, the newly formed AQIM established a close relationship to the Libya Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG)

The commanders of the GSPC had been inspired by the religious teaching of Salafism in Saudi Arabia, which historically played an important role in the training of the Mujahideen in Afghanistan.

The history of jihadist commanders is of significance in addressing the broader issue: Who is behind the various Al Qaeda affiliated factions?Who is supporting the terrorists? What political and economic interests are being served?

The Washington based Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) traces back the origins of AQIM to the Soviet Afghan war:

Most of AQIM’s major leaders are believed to have trained in Afghanistan during the 1979-1989 war against the Soviets as part of a group of North African volunteers known as “Afghan Arabs” that returned to the region and radicalized Islamist movements in the years that followed. The group is divided into “katibas” or briga+des, which are clustered into different and often independent cells.

The group’s top leader, or emir, since 2004 has been  Abdelmalek Droukdel, also known as Abou Mossab Abdelwadoud, a trained engineer and explosives expert who has fought in Afghanistan and has roots with the GIA in Algeria. It is under Droukdel’s leadership that AQIM declared France as its main target. One of the “most violent and radical” AQIM leaders is Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, according to counterterrorism experts. Abou Zied is linked to several kidnappings and executions of Europeans in the region. (CFR, http://www.cfr.org/north-africa/al-qaeda-islamic-maghreb-aqim/p12717

What the CFR report fails to mention is that the Islamic jihad in Afghanistan was a CIA initiative, initially launched in 1979 during the Carter administration. It was actively supported by president Ronald Reagan throughout the 1980s. PIC HERE

In 1979 the largest covert operation in the history of the CIA was launched in Afghanistan.  Wahabi missionaries from Saudi Arabia set up the Coranic schools. Covert funding was channelled to the Mujahideen.

“With the active encouragement of the CIA and Pakistan’s ISI, who wanted to turn the Afghan Jihad into a global war waged by all Muslim states against the Soviet Union, some 35,000 Muslim radicals from 40 Islamic countries joined Afghanistan’s fight between 1982 and 1992. Tens of thousands more came to study in Pakistani madrasahs. Eventually, more than 100,000 foreign Muslim radicals were directly influenced by the Afghan jihad.” (Ahmed Rashid, “The Taliban: Exporting Extremism”, Foreign Affairs, November-December 1999).

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), using Pakistan’s military Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), played a key role in training the Mujahideen. In turn, the CIA-sponsored guerrilla training was integrated with the teachings of Islam:

“In March 1985, President Reagan signed National Security Decision Directive 166,…[which] authorize[d] stepped-up covert military aid to the Mujahideen, and it made clear that the secret Afghan war had a new goal: to defeat Soviet troops in Afghanistan through covert action and encourage a Soviet withdrawal. The new covert U.S. assistance began with a dramatic increase in arms supplies — a steady rise to 65,000 tons annually by 1987… as well as a “ceaseless stream” of CIA and Pentagon specialists who traveled to the secret headquarters of Pakistan’s ISI on the main road near Rawalpindi, Pakistan. There the CIA specialists met with Pakistani intelligence officers to help plan operations for the Afghan rebels.” (Steve Coll, Washington Post, July 19, 1992)

The Al Qaeda leader behind the BP In Mena gas plant operation Mokhtar Belmokhtar was a founding member of AQIM who was trained in Afghanistan. Belmokhtar  had been enlisted at age 19 as a Mujahideen to fight within the ranks of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, at a time when the CIA and its Pakistani affiliate the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) were supporting the jihadists in both recruitment and training.

Mokhtar Belmokhtar fought in the Afghan “civil war” in the wake of the Soviet-Afghan war (which officially ended in 1989). He returned to Algeria in 1993 and joined the GSPC.

The Role of America’s Allies, Saudi Arabia and QatarAl-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) from the outset in 2007 has established a close relationship to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), which is supported by Western intelligence including MI6 and the CIA.The LIFG was supported by NATO during the 2011 war on Libya, “providing weapons, training, special forces and even aircraft to support them in the overthrow of Libya’s government.” ( http://www.globalresearch.ca/geopolitical-reordering-and-dirty-tricks-us-covert-support-to-al-qaeda-in-northern-mali-france-comes-to-the-rescue/5318614. The leaders of the Libya Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) were also trained and recruited in Afghanistan.More recently, reports confirm that AQIM has received weapons from the Libya Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). LIFG mercenaries have integrated AQIM brigades. According to commander Mokhtar Belmokhtar who coordinated the In Mena operation:

“We have been one of the main beneficiaries of the revolutions in the Arab world. As for our benefiting from the (Libyan) weapons, this is a natural thing in these kinds of circumstances.” (http://www.hanford.gov/c.cfm/oci/ci_terrorist.cfm?dossier=174

The BP In Amenas plant is located directly on the Libyan border. One suspects that there was a contingent of Libya Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) combatants involved in the operation.

AQIM also has ties to the Al Nusra Front in Syria which is supported covertly by Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

AQIM is described  as ” one of the region’s wealthiest, best-armed militant groups”.  In a recent report, France’s  Canard enchaîné revealed that Qatar (a staunch ally of the United States) was funding various terrorist entities in Mali including the Salafist Ansar Ed-Dine:

Both the Tuareg rebels of the MNLA (independence and laity), Ansar Eddine, AQIM (Al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb) and Mujao (Jihad in West Africa) were assisted with dollars from Qatar, according to one report  (The Examiner)

The satirical French paper Canard Enchaîné reported [June 2012] that Qatar has allegedly been funding armed groups in northern Mali made their way into Algerian and west African outlets.

Suspicions that Ansar Ed-Dine, the main pro-shari’ah armed group in the region, has been receiving funding from Qatar has circulated in Mali for several months.

Reports (as yet unconfirmed) that a ‘Qatari’ aircraft landed at Gao, full of weapons, money and drugs, for example, emerged near the beginning of the conflict.

The original report cites a French military intelligence report as indicating that Qatar has provided financial support to all three of the main armed groups in northern Mali: Iyad Ag Ghali’s Ansar Ed-Dine, al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA).

The amount of funding given to each of the groups is not mentioned but it mentions repeated reports from the French DGSE to the Defense Ministry have mentioned Qatar’s support for ‘terrorism’ in northern Mali. (emphasis added)

As reported via the Centre for Research on Globalization

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