Al-Qaida in Algeria
The Republic of Mali is a landlocked nation in Northwestern Saharan Africa. Mali is divided into eight regions and has a population of 15 million. The main sources of income for the nation are fishing and agriculture though it is one of the largest producers of gold on the African continent. Since 1992 the country was stable until a coup d’état in March 2012 removed the government and suspended the constitution, claiming that the nation’s President did little to quell a rebellion by a separatist group which was sidelined by al Qaeda trained Islamic terrorist Ansar Dine and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The goal of these organizations was to turn Mali and Algeria into Sharia compliant Islamic republics. Being so close to Libya and Egypt it would be safe to assume that they were getting assistance from the Muslim Brotherhood.
Seeing the possibility of Mali falling into the hands of al Qaeda the French launched Operation Serval to assist Mali’s interim government and restore democracy in the embattled nation. Unlike the Obama Administration, France sees an al Qaeda controlled North Africa as a perfect spot from which to launch multiple 9-11 attacks with impunity against western nations. (2)(3) France has deployed troops in the region and is providing air support. Algeria–which has an aggressive anti-terrorism policy–allowed the French to use their airspace against the Islamists in Mali. France has had some success against the Islamists in the Southern region of Mali but the area of the groups control extends to the North and into Southern Algeria. French involvement has been effective in halting a terrorist takeover of Mali. The Islamists had to retaliate.
Al-Mulathameen Brigade (Masked Ones), a sub element of AQIM, are known for smuggling drugs, weapons, people and kidnapping—in short, for being good Muslims. (4) Their plan was to attack a soft target and grab as many western hostages as they could at the Amanas natural gas installation. There were plenty of westerners there to be had! It’s likely that the group wanted to initiate a hostage standoff to persuade France to leave Mali and force Algeria to close its airspace to western nations. But before they could get their demands out to the western press, Algeria exercised its own anti-terrorism policy and attacked the facility killing several terrorists and hostages. (At of the time of this writing it is unknown how many and who were killed). There were no negotiations.
The terrorists were seeking publicity, hoping to force France to leave Mali and deter any future opposition to their Jihad. They believed their message would inspire home grown Islamists in western nations who would commit terrorist attacks against their own government in retaliation. The terrorists failed and the world is standing by Mali and Algeria. And the Obama Administration? It is trying to decide if this was a terrorist action!