French kidnapping marks ISIS debut in the Mediterranean

Jihadist group leaves al-Qaeda for Islamic State

23 September, 15:58

    (by Diego Minuti) (ANSAmed) - ROME, SEPTEMBER 23 - Beyond fear for the life of the French tourist kidnapped in the conflict-ridden Kabylia region of Algeria, the kidnapping of Herve' Pierre Gourdel by a group claiming to be allied with the Islamic State opened a new scenario on jihadist terrorism that debuted in the Mediterranean as of Sunday.

    Algeria has been at war with terrorism without interruption since the early 1990s, when a military putsch eliminated an electoral victory by the Islamist party. Terrorism in Algeria has always remained deeply rooted to the territory, although the return of hundreds of ex-combatants who fought among the Taliban gave a qualitative leap in tactics and strategies.

    Since the September 11, 2001 World Trade Center attack, Algerian jihadists have progressively approached al-Qaeda, while still keeping their autonomy. Although al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is deeply tied to the parent group, especially after Ayman Mohammed Rabie al-Zawahiri took over its ideological reins, it has always moved following the 'Algerian' path of terrorism: military actions and not indiscriminate attacks, minimization of "collateral damage" or civilian victims.

    This line has been defended by the 44-year-old head of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb (AQIM), Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud, also known as Abdelmalek Droukdel. The emir's stance has triggered internal frictions with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, causing the formation of splinter groups.

    One of these was led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who planned and carried out the January 2013 assault on the In Amenas gas plant, near the Libyan border, in which 800 hostages were initially taken, and 69 people, including 29 militants, ended up dead.

    In this context, the appearance on the terrorism scene of al-Baghdadi and his "Caliphate" gave an infusion of life to the "movementist" wing of the North African jihad, and brought the birth of groups inspired by ISIS. Until yesterday, the group that kidnapped the French tourist - Jund al-Khilafah (Caliphate Soldiers) - was just one of many of the groups the Algerian army takes on daily, especially in the region of Tizi Ouzou.

    But the fact that the kidnappers - who approached the Islamic State just days ago - threatened to decapitate Gourdel barely 24 hours after seizing him, says a great deal about what could happen in Algeria and other at-risk countries, which are exactly those who fuel migrant trafficking toward Italy and Europe.(ANSAmed).

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