Tag Archives: Benghazi

Libya: Sirte After IS

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After months of fighting, militants of the so-called Islamic State (IS) are on the verge of being completely ousted from their stronghold in Libya’s central coastal city of Sirte.

In May of this year, milita groups aligned to the UN-backed Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) launched an operation aimed at forcing IS from Sirte and regaining control of the city. More recently, after weeks of stagnating, the battle to expel the jihadist group has achieved more success with the held of US air strikes, which were launched at the beginning of this month at the request of the GNA. As of 29 August, the US has carried out 77 air strikes on the city, and while it has damaged the jihadists’ position in Sirte, it does not mean the end for their presence in the North African country.

Why is Losing Sirte Important?

IS took complete control of Sirte in June 2015 after being pushed out of its initial stronghold of Derna, which is located in Libya’s far east, by rival militias aligned with al-Qaeda. The loss of Sirte, which is IS’ stronghold in Libya, would effectively be a blow to the group’s image. In IS propaganda, the jihadist group has repeatedly portrayed the city, which is close to Western Europe, as a key position outside its main areas of operation in Iraq and Syria. As it has held control of the city, IS has transformed buildings in Sirte into its own institutions and prisons and has used the local radio station to air its propaganda. Control of the city also brought IS close to the country’s oil-rich area.

Does IS Have Any Other Strongholds in Libya?

No it does not, however IS remains present elsewhere in the country. In the second city of Benghazi, IS militants have long been fighting other forces and have recently launched a number of attacks on its western outskirts.

How Many IS militants are in Libya? 

While there are no reliable figures about the number of IS militants currently in Libya, it has been estimated that the group has about 5,000 fighters in th country, man y of whom are thought to have been deployed in Sirte.

What Does IS Do Next?

 IS has been caught on the back foot and the militant group may initially move into desert areas, revert to earlier tactics. Prior to losing its stronghold in Derna, the group made its presence felt elsewhere in Libya by carrying out repeated bombings in the key cities of Tripoli and Benghazi as well as targeting oil installations partly run by Western companies. As it puts up resistance, IS has again been employing suicide bombings as a means of attack.

Where Might IS Go Next? 

Some analysts believe that IS fighters may flee to remote areas in the southern region of the country. If they choose this route, they could head for the Sahel-Sahara area, where other jihadists are present and operate relatively freely. However Libya’s importance to IS effectively means that the militant group may eventually regroup and emerge in another part of the country, seeking again to take control of land, which they can then showcase as a major gain. Analysts believe that the town of Bani Walid is one option for IS fighters, with local media recently reporting that air strikes hit a road in th city’s southeast, which reports disclosed was “often used” by is fighters.

The militants make seek to boost their forces in and around Benghazi, or they may head west towards Sabratha. While IS used to run a large training camp in that region, the site may no longer appeal the jihadist group as it was the target of a US air strike in February 2016. Yet another option is the town of Ajdabiya, which is located between Sirte and Benghazi. IS previously had a presence in the town, however it is believed that if they were to establish themselves there, the would have to confront al-Qaeda-linked rivals and the Libyan National Army of the Tobruk-based parliament.

What is evident is that IS is facing mounting pressure and US airstrikes in Libya, which may result in them struggling to create a new stronghold in the country.

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Gunmen Kidnap Tunisian Diplomat in Libya

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Unidentified gunmen have kidnapped a Tunisian diplomat in Tripoli.  The abduction was confirmed Saturday by Tunisia’s foreign minister.

According to embassy sources, the incident occurred late Friday when the kidnappers forces Mohamed bin Sheikh into their vehicle in the Ain Zara suburb of eastern Tripoli.  The diplomat is a secretary to the Tunisian ambassador in Libya.

Speaking Saturday, Tunisian Foreign Minister Mongi Hamdi confirmed that “a Tunisian diplomat was kidnapped in Tripoli…” adding “the Tunisian ambassador told me that his car was found empty.”  Tunisia’s ministry is currently in contact with Libyan authorities to obtain more information and to set up efforts to secure Mr Sheikh’s release.  They have also urged Libyan authorities to protect members of its diplomatic mission.

Although the motive behind the abduction remains unclear, with no group claiming responsibility or demanding a ransom, some sources have suggested that the move may be linked to Tunisia’s war against its own Ansar al-Sharia, which has connections to Ansar in Libya.

This latest abduction is just one of a string of diplomatic abductions that have occurred in the Libyan capital this year alone.  It further demonstrates the weak Libyan government’s struggle to curb militias while it attempts to build a democracy after four decades of dictatorship under Col. Muammar Gaddafi.

In January, five Egyptian diplomats were briefly kidnapped in Tripoli in what security officials stated at the time was in retaliation for Egypt’s arrest of a Libyan militia chief.  They were later freed, with Egypt also releasing the militia commander.  During the same month, a South Korean trade official was kidnapped as he left his office in Tripoli.  He was freed days later by security forces.  Libyan officials later stated that his kidnapping was not politically motivated.

Although there has been a rise in the number of abductions of foreign diplomats in Libya, the threat of kidnapping has not been solely focused on officials.  In recent months, foreigners have also been targeted, however the motives remain unclear.  In December 2013, an American teacher was shot dead in Benghazi while in January, a British man and a New Zealand woman were shot execution-style on a beach in western Libya.

Three years after Libya’s revolt to topple Muammar Gaddafi, the North African country continues to struggle to impose security as brigades of former rebels, Islamist militants and ex-fighters refuse to disarm.  While Libyans view these groups as both a blessing and a curse, as on the one hand in the absence of an effective army they provide security across much of the country and protect the borders, on the other hand, they have taken the law into their own hands, with some groups being accused of human rights abuses and unlawful detention.  One of the most high-profile incidents involving these militias was the October 2013 kidnapping of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan by a group which was originally set up to provide security in the capital city.  In turn, these militia groups have also been involved in a number of clashes.  In November 2013, clashes broke out in the capital between militias from the town of Misrata and local protesters.  The incident left more than fifty people dead and hundreds wounded.  It also sparked a backlash against the armed groups in Tripoli, resulting in several of the militias leaving the capital, including Misrata and Zintan who had been there ever since the war.

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Interpol Issues Global Security Alert while the US Extends Embassy Closures

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Interpol has issued a global security alert linked to a suspected al-Qaeda involvement in a string of recent prison outbreaks that have taken place in Iraq, Libya and Pakistan.  The alert comes just days after the United States State Department issued a global travel alert and closed a number of Embassies because of fears of an unspecified al-Qaeda attack.

Citing prison breaks in three countries, Interpol has requested that its members examine whether or not al-Qaeda militants were behind the prison breaks.  The police agency is also asking that member countries “swiftly process any information linked to these events.”  In a statement that was released on Saturday, the French-based agency stated that “with suspected al-Qaeda involvement in several of the breakouts which led to the escape of hundreds of terrorists and other criminals, the Interpol alert requests the organizations 190 member countries‘ assistance in order to determine whether any of these recent events re coordinated or linked.”  It also calls for Interpol to be informed “if any escaped terrorist is located or intelligence developed which could help prevent another terrorist attack.”  The most recent escape occurred in north-west Pakistan, in which 248 prisoners escaped from a jail.  On 30 July, Taliban militants used automatic weapons and bombs in order to break down the walls of the jail in Dera Ismail Khan.  At least thirteen people, including six police officers, were killed during the attack.  Authorities have since indicated that thirty of those who fled were “hardened militants” who were jailed for their involvement in a number of suicide bombings and other serious attacks.  Meanwhile on 22 July, hundreds of inmates escaped from two jails in Iraq:  Abu Ghraib, located to the west of Baghdad; and Taji, located to the north.  Bombs and mortar fire were used to break into those two prisons in which al-Qaeda members were amongst those being housed in the facility.

US Extends Embassy Closure

Meanwhile the United States has announced that it will keep a number of embassies in northern Africa and in the Middle East closed until Saturday, due to a possible militant threat.  After an announcement on Friday pertaining to a possible threat, twenty-one US embassies were closed on Sunday.  On Monday, the State Department in Washington indicated that the extension of closures were “out of abundance of caution,” and not in reaction to a new threat.  With the State Department announcing that the potential for an al-Qaeda-inspired attack being particularly strong in the Middle East and North Africa, the global travel alert will be in force until the end of August.  Although US diplomatic missions in Algiers, Kabul and Baghdad remained open on Monday, its diplomatic posts in Abu Dhabi, Amman, Cairo, Riyadh, Dhahran, Jeddah, Doha, Dubai, Kuwait, Manama, Muscat, Sanaa and Tripoli will remain closed until Saturday.  African missions including Antananarivo, Bujumbura, Djibouti, Khartoum, Kigali, and Port Louis are also on the list of closures.  The US embassy in Tel Aviv, along with two consulates in Jerusalem and Haifa, were also closed on Sunday.

 US Embassies

It is evident that security at US diplomatic facilities remains a concern following last year’s attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, where the US ambassador, along with three other Americans, were killed.  Officials in the United Kingdom also announced over the weekend that its embassy in Yemen would remain closed until the Muslim festival of Eid which will occur on Thursday.  The UK Foreign Office is also advising against all travel to Yemen and is strongly urging British nationals in the country to leave.  Several other European countries have also temporarily closed their missions in Yemen.

The embassy closures and US global travel alert came after the US reportedly intercepted al-Qaeda messages suggesting that they were between senior figures within the militant group who were plotting an attack against an embassy.  While the details of the threat have remained unspecified, it is evident that those members of Congress who have been briefed on the intelligence, seem to agree that it amounts to one of the most serious in recent years, effectively pointing to the possibility of a major attack which may coincide with the end of the holy month of Ramadan, which ends this week.

In recent years, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen, which is known as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), has attempted to carry out several high profile attacks, including one on Christmas Day in 2009 in which a man attempted to blow up a trans-Atlantic jet over Detroit, using explosives that were sewn into his underwear.  Months earlier, the militant group had also attempted to assassinate the Saudi intelligence chief by using a bomb that was attached to the attacker’s body.     

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MENA Update

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Algeria

Algeria builds military zone along Tunisian Border

9 June 2013- Algeria has made plans to build 20 military zones along the Algerian-Tunisian border to minimize terrorist infiltration and arms smuggling. The move comes after success following similar efforts along the Libyan and Malian borders. The military zones are off-limits to civilians without a permit.  In mid-May, Algerian military leadership began implementations of plans to protect over 80 border crossing points, covering 956 kilometres. Algerian-Tunisian Security agreements include military cooperation and exchanges of information, and well as tracking of suspects and mutually aiding in investigations related to “Jihadist” networks.

Bouteflika Suffered Full Stroke

13 June 2013- A statement released by the Algerian government admits that President Abdel Aziz Bouteflika suffered a full stroke, rather than the “mini-stroke” that was officially reported. Bouteflika suffered the event on 27 April and was immediately flown to France for treatment at Val de Grace Hospital. In early June, he was relocated for recuperation. Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal and Army Chief of Staff, General Gaid Salah have visited Bouteflika, and report he is in good condition. The Algerian president gave orders to ensure that markets have adequate food supplies as the month of Ramadan approaches in three weeks time. A portion of the meeting was released on Algerian national television in order to show that Bouteflika is improving, in hopes of quelling growing rumours that the president was in grave condition. Despite the images of Bouteflika’s improving condition, speculation is increasing that he will not run for election in April of 2014.

Bahrain

44 Terror Suspects arrested

13 June 2013- The Bahraini Interior Ministry announced the arrest of forty-four suspects, including two women, for committing terrorist activities in Bahrain. The investigation led to the identification of members and leaders of the terrorist group, the February 14th organization, as well as the “Al Imam Army”, which has trained others in the use of weapons and explosives with the aim of disrupting security and endangering lives.

The arrested individuals are suspected of a list of charges including: conspiring to plant a bomb during the recent Formula One race, blowing up ATMs, conducting arson attacks on car showrooms, and placing explosives around Manama, which have resulted in the deaths of two Asian expats. Three were arrested for using a homemade bomb planted in a car near the Bahrain Financial Harbour.

The February 14 organisation was created following incidents stemming from the uprising in Bahrain in February 2011. The Bahraini Interior Ministry have also named the cell’s masterminds in Bahrain and in London. The masterminds are known to frequently travel between Iran, Iraq and Lebanon to obtain financial and moral support.

Egypt

Nationwide Protests Scheduled for 30 June; Interior Ministry Closes Routes between Sinai and Mainland

18 June 2013- Egypt’s Interior Minister has announced the closing of tunnels and ferries across the Suez Canal and the halt of any traffic between the Sinai Peninsula and mainland Egypt ahead of the upcoming anti-government protests on 30 June. The move is an effort to prevent the crossing of militants into the mainland of Egypt.

Nationwide protests against president Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood are expected across Egypt on 30 June, the anniversary of his first year in power. Opposition groups have joined together to call for his removal.

Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim is specifically concerned with the possible invasion of prisons and subsequent release of prisoners, which has occurred several times during protests since the ousting of former president Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Ibrahim is also concerned with securing Itihadiya Palace, where the president resides, and pre-empting clashes between supporters and opposition to President Morsi.

Security forces will also be deployed to the Egyptian Media Production City on the outskirts of Cairo, however national security services will not be provided to offices of any political parties.

Opponents of President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood come from both liberal and secular movements, and believe that the 30 June protests are the last opportunity to drive him from power. Public discontent is widespread, ranging from concerns over failed infrastructure, food shortages, high prices and lack of security. One protest campaign has started a petition drive called “Tamarod” (Translation: “Rebels”) which has collected over 15 million signatures calling for Morsi to step down and early elections to be held.

Many of Morsi’s backers are planning counter-protests, calling the planned demonstrations an attempt to overturn democracy. A senior Brotherhood leader has stated that the protests are not actually backed by genuine popular support, and believes that the Tamarod signatures are forged. Some hard-line clerics have also issued fatwas, calling organizers and participants in the protests “kuffar,” or non-believers, who deserve to be killed.

Egyptian police, who have been angry with Morsi’s administration for being treated like a “tool of the political party”, have intoned that they wish to stay out of the conflict. The Egyptian military has not voiced an opinion, but has been visibly at odds with the ruling party.

Morsi names ex-militant as governor of Luxor

17 June 2013- Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has appointed Adel el-Khayat as the new governor of the ancient city of Luxor, raising anger among Egyptian tourism workers and residents. El-Khayat is a member of the political arm of ex-Islamic militant group Gamaa Islamiya. In 1992, the group staged an insurgency against the state, attacking police, tourists, and Coptic Christians. In 1997, Gamaa Islamiya claimed responsibility for what became known as the “Luxor Massacre”, when 58 tourists and four Egyptians were killed at the 3,400 year old Temple of Hatshepsut outside Luxor. In the 2000s, Gamaa Islamiya renounced violence and in 2011, the group turned to politics, aligning themselves closely with Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Leaders of the organization have threatened an “Islamic revolution” if liberals try to unseat the Islamist president.

Workers and political opposition to the appointment have planned to seal off the governor’s office to prevent Adel el-Khayat from entering. Tourism workers fear that el-Khayat’s ties to the former militant group and his hard-line Islamist stance will deter tourists, which are the lifeblood of the region.

El-Khayat’s appointment is one of several new appointments for provincial governor positions. On 16 June, Morsi made seventeen appointments, including eight from his party, the Muslim Brotherhood. The appointments mean that the Brotherhood controls 10 of Egypt’s 27 provinces. Nine additional provinces are still run by military and police, stemming from the Mubarak era.

Iran

Hassan Rouhani wins Iranian election, replaces Ahmadinejad

14 June 2013- In a relatively calm election process, Hassan Rouhani has won the Iranian elections, and will be replacing outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Rouhani was a participant in the Islamic Revolution of the 1970s and was linked to Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic republic. Rouhani was the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council for 16 years, and the nation’s chief nuclear negotiator from 2003 to 2005. Rouhani won just over 50% of the vote, and called his election a “victory of moderation over extremism.” After his victory was announced, Iranians took to the streets in tens of thousands, wearing purple, the colour of Rouhani’s election campaign.

Rouhani’s election brings a shift in Iran’s power structure, as he ushers in a mix of both conservative and moderate beliefs. As the former chief nuclear negotiator, Rouhani is supportive of Iran’s nuclear agenda, pledging in the run-up to elections to try to ease international sanctions imposed over Iran’s nuclear programme. His dealings with the West are expected to be significantly different from those of Ahmadinejad, whose brand of ultimatums and threats increased tensions with the West, resulting in heavy sanctions and economic strain for Iran. Rouhani is expected to take a more pragmatic tact in dealing with both foreign and domestic powers.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu maintains that Iran’s nuclear program should be stopped “by any means.” He added, “The international community should not fall into wishful thinking and be tempted to ease pressure on Iran to stop its nuclear programme.” Israeli President Shimon Peres is more hopeful, believing that Rouhani will not go toward extreme policies.

Although Israel will still consider military action if Iran continues its nuclear program, Western powers have indicated that they are willing to engage with Rouhani, providing he lives up to his obligations under the UN security council resolutions.

Rouhani has already begun discussions on his cabinet with Ali Larijani, speaker for Iran’s parliament. The Iranian Parliament must approve his selections when he takes office in August. 

Iraq

Suicide Bombers Target Mosque; 24 dead, 52 wounded

17 June, 2013- Two suicide bombers blew themselves up inside and near a Shiite mosque in Baghdad, killing 24 people and wounding 52. The bombing is the latest in a string of escalating sectarian violence over recent months. Since April 2013, nearly 2,000 have been killed, including over 220 in June.

The first bomb was detonated at a security checkpoint near a mosque in Baghdad’s Qahira district, a predominantly middle class, Shiite-majority neighbourhood. It is believed the first bombing was an attempt to distract the authorities as a second bomber went into the mosque and blew himself up while worshippers were performing midday prayers.

While no party has claimed responsibility yet, al Qaeda’s Iraqi division has conducted suicide bombings and attacks against Shiite citizens frequently.

On 16 June, 51 people were killed in coordinated bombings. On Monday, fifteen people were killed in bomb attacks, including deaths caused by a suicide bomber who set off his explosives among a group of policemen in Fallujah.

Bombings kill 13 ahead of vote

19 June, 2013– A provincial party leader and four of his relatives were killed in a suicide bombing attack in northern Iraq. Yunus al-Ramah, the leader of the United Iraq party, was hosting an event at his home in Al-Hadhr when a suicide bomber targeted people gathering in his garden. The attack happened just days before local elections are to be held on Thursday in Sunni-majority Nineveh and Anbar provinces, where polls had been delayed since 20 April due to security concerns. Ramah was not running in the upcoming election, although several members of his party are.

Later in the evening, back-to-back roadside bombs killed eight youths and wounded 25 near a football pitch in Muqdadiyah.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack; however Sunni militants linked to Al-Qaeda previously attempted to intimidate candidates in order to derail elections in majority Sunni provinces.  Analysts believe that Shiite-led authorities are not exerting enough effort to address the underlying causes of the demonstrations. This lack of action has given militant groups opportunities to carry out terrorist tactics.

Libya

Libyan Judge Assassinated; Clashes in Benghazi

17 June, 2013- Unidentified militants have assassinated Judge Mohammed Naguib in a drive-by shooting in front of a courthouse. Naguib was a senior Libyan judge in the eastern city of Derna, which is a known stronghold of Islamic militants, including Ansar al-Shariah, the group suspected of involvement in the September 11 attacks on the US mission in Benghazi.

In Benghazi, Libya’s General National Congress has postponed the vote on a new president following another round of clashes in Benghazi, which erupted in the early hours of 15 June near the city centre. Libyan Special Forces battled gunmen, resulting in six soldiers dead and several injured. An explosion also occurred at the headquarters of the National Oil Corporation. Authorities are working to identify perpetrators of the pre-dawn assault, through license plates and photographs. One group has been identified; investigations are on-going.

Some Libyan activists believe that the national congress lost credibility by adopting the political isolation law at gunpoint and that the government was now losing its credibility as well, as “the state has failed Benghazi.” Locals say the city has become a place to settle accounts, and call on the government to come and conduct affairs in the city. One witness stated, “If Benghazi does not settle down, then Libya will not settle down. The state must meet its responsibilities.”

Qatar

US- Taliban Talks Cancelled in Doha

20 June, 13- Talks scheduled for Thursday between US officials and Afghan Taliban representatives in Doha have been cancelled due to the Afghan government’s anger at the opening of a Taliban office in Qatar.

The opening of the Taliban office was intended to be a step toward paving the way for peace talks, however, protesters in Kabul argued that the office would develop into a Taliban government-in-exile. US Secretary of State, John Kerry, has been in talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who accused the Obama administration of duplicity. Karzai was particularly infuriated by Taliban officials displaying white Taliban Flag and referring to the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”, and suspended talks on a long-term security deal to keep US troops in Afghanistan after NATO leaves in 2014. The US has asked the Qatari government to remove the sign outside the new office in Doha that claims to represent the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”.

Though the office in Doha is meant only as a base for talks rather than a political platform, Karzai felt the Tuesday press conference was a violation of that agreement. Further, the Afghan government prefers the US to refrain from broad negotiations with the Taliban. Although Washington agrees that the process must be Afghan-led the delegates want to discuss issues including renouncing violence, links with al-Qaida and women’s rights in the country.

On Wednesday, the US suspended plans to attend the talks. Meanwhile, the Taliban also claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on the Bagram air base that killed four Americans on the same day that the tentative deal about talks was announced.

Yemen

Yemen market suicide bomber kills two

A suicide bomber has struck a market in the north Yemen town of Saada, about 80 miles north of Sanaa. The bomber detonated a bomb-laden motorbike in the town, killing himself and at least two civilians, and injuring eight.

Saada is a mainly Shia city in the north of majority Sunni Yemen. The town has been controlled by the Houthi Shia rebels for years. Fighting between the rebels and government forces had killed thousands of people over the course of a decade, until a truce was agreed upon in 2010. The rebels are involved in a national dialogue, however tensions have recently escalated as the Sunni-dominated government makes claims that the Houthi are backed by mainly Shia Iran. The rebels, who are also in conflict with AQAP, feel they are politically and socially marginalised.

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Security Update for Algeria (23 January 2013)

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Algerian forces are combing the Sahara desert for five foreigners who remain missing from the attacks at Ain Amenas gas complex last week. It is unknown whether they were able to flee the complex and are perhaps lost in the vast desert region.  The plant is located deep in the Sahara with few population centres nearby. Evening temperatures in the region can drop as low as 3° Celsius.

Algeria - mapThe attack last week left 38 workers and 29 militants dead. The al Qaeda-linked group reportedly demanded the release of two well-known, linked jihadists in exchange for American hostages. The two jihadists are Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman (a.k.a. the “Blind Sheikh”) and Aafia Siddiqui (a.k.a. “Lady Al Qaeda”). The request for their release, however unlikely, remains a common refrain by Al-Qaeda linked groups.

Of the three militants taken into custody, one stated under interrogation that some Egyptian members of the group were involved in the terrorist attacks at the US Mission in Benghazi. The attacks left four dead, including US Ambassador Chris Stevens, in September of last year. It is not known whether this confession was obtained under duress or should be deemed trustworthy. However, if confirmed, the link underscores the transnational characteristic of the jihadist groups now occupying the Sahara and Sahal regions.

US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, believes that the Islamist militant takeover of northern Mali had created a haven for terrorists to extend their reach in North Africa. Algerian officials believe the gas complex plot was devised by groups in northern Mali, where Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the leader of the group claiming responsibility, is believed to be based. Further reinforcing this notion, US intelligence officials believe that some members of Ansar al-Shariah, the group that carried out the attack in Benghazi, has connections to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Algerian officials say the Ain Amenas attackers travelled through Niger and Libya, whose border is only 30 miles from the plant. It is believed that the arms for the assault were purchased in Tripoli. The hostage takers converged in the southern Libyan town of Ghat, just across the border. Algerian officials believe the nation can expect more terrorist attacks, despite having delivered sharp blows to militants over a period covering nearly 15 years.

Belmokhtar, mastermind of the Ain Amenas attack, may have once worked as an agent for Algeria’s secretive internal security agency (Département du Renseignement et de la Sécurité or DRS).

A 2009 cable describes a conversation with a prominent Tuareg leader assigned to the Malian consulate, who professed to be “as confused as everyone else regarding the Algerian government’s reticence to go after [Belmokhtar’s] camps in northern Mali”, presuming that Belmokhtar may have been receiving support from certain quarters of the Algerian government.

A senior fellow at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies stated, “You have a number of jihadi figures who have approached intelligence agencies about serving as double agents, not because they wanted to betray the jihadi cause, but rather because they thought they could play the agencies and get more information about their thinking about the jihadis.”

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