June 6, 2010

From GSPC to AQIM: The evolution of an Algerian islamist terrorist group into an Al-Qa‘ida Affiliate and its implications for the Sahara-Sahel region

Al-Qa‘ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Algeria’s largest and most active Islamist terrorist organization, was formerly known as the Groupe salafiste pour la Prédication et le Combat, and usually referred to by its French acronym (GSPC, Salafist Group for Call/Preaching and Combat). It began in the late 1990s as a splinter faction of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), then fighting a bloody insurgency against the Algerian military government with the goal of establishing an Islamic state. GSPC/AQIM eclipsed its predecessor and remains active not only in Algeria but also in the neighboring Sahelian states. Best known for its raids and bombings against Algerian military bases and convoys, the group has also perpetrated kidnappings of European tourists and terrorist attacks in Mauritania and Mali. It has likewise been linked to planned strikes in Europe, as well as to smuggling and human trafficking across the vast Sahara. This article will examine the transformation of the GSPC, whose stated goal was the overthrow of Algeria’s long-ruling secular nationalist government, into AQIM, a participant in the global jihad allegedly committed to the destruction of the “Far Enemy.”

Filed under: ACAS Review (Bulletin), Bulletin 85