How much of a threat is Al Qaeda in North Africa?
Despite Algerian insurgents' stated intentions to strike in Europe, some officials remain skeptical that an attack outside Africa is possible.
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An explosives expert, Droukdel was appointed leader of an Islamist rebel group called the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat in 2004, six years after it was founded with the aim of toppling the government and establishing purist Islamic state.
In October 2003, the group offered its support to the al Qaeda network and in January 2007 the group changed its name to Al Qaeda Organisation in the Islamic Maghreb.
Since then it has set off a string of deadly car bombings in and around Algiers, including bombings of United Nations and government buildings in Algiers that killed at least 41 people.
Meanwhile, Agence France-Presse reported two weeks ago that the Austrian government said there was "progress" in negotiations to secure the release of the two Austrian tourists kidnapped by the group in February.
The kidnappers initially demanded the release of a number of Islamic extremists imprisoned in Algeria and Tunisia. They have since demanded a five million euro ransom (7.9 million dollars) according to unconfirmed press reports.
On June 23, Algeria's president named a "pragmatist known for his tough stance against Islamic extremists" to a third term as prime minister, according to the Associated Press, amid what it called a recent "resurgence" of violence.
Most of the recent bombings have been claimed by al-Qaida in Islamic North Africa, formerly known as the GSPC — a Salafist group that grew out of an insurgency that raged in the country in the 1990s.
Algeria's government canceled 1992 elections that looked set to put an Islamist party in power and then outlawed that party. An estimated 100,000 people died in the armed rebellion that followed, according to the International Crisis Group (ICG).
In its latest report on Algeria in 2004, the group called the persistence of armed movements in Algeria "a factor facilitating expansion of al-Qaeda's jihad."
But the ICG added that such armed groups had been dramatically marginalized, as most of Algeria's Islamists moderated their political platforms in the 1990s.
It warned that the Algerian military could use the global war on terror as a pretext for its continued domination of Algerian politics, and urged the US to be "more sophisticated in its handling of an over-played al-Qaeda factor."
... there is a danger U.S. military engagement in the region in the context of the "war on terrorism", instead of eliminating an al-Qaeda presence, may actually aggravate it by underlining the strategic weakness, dependent nature and possible legitimacy deficits of the states of the Sahel region and, especially, by providing in the U.S. military presence itself significant motives and targets for jihadi activity that were previously absent.