Translated from French by TdH1980, original source: 01/10/2012 at 11: 34 By L. Touchard, B. Ahmed, Ch Ouazani / Jeuneafrique.com (http://www.jeuneafrique.com/Articles/Dossier/JA2698p024-033.xml2/algerie-mali-terrorisme-aqmiaqmi-abdelmalek-droukdel-l-emir-cache.html)
Abdelmalek Droukdel is 42 years old Algerian and the founder of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
Droukdel is a chemist that has become a terrorist. Born in 1970 in Meftah (Blida region, Algeria) in 1970, Abdelmalek Droukdel, alias Abu Musab Abdelwadoud (his “nom de guerre”), grew up in a modest family that was strongly influenced by religion. The first operations of Islamist groups in the late 1980s, fascinated the young man, who regularly attended the mosque. When he graduated as Bachelor in Mathematics at the University of Blida, he established his first contacts with the Islamic fighters salvation Front (FIS). It is one of his contacts there who recommended him that he should begin studying chemistry. Droukdel graduated in 1994. A year earlier, he had joined the armed struggle joining the Armed Islamic Group (GIA). His academic background makes him a bomb maker. He experimented, climbed the ladder and was noted, in particular by Hassan Hattab, who he followed when he created the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) in 1998.
Droukdel is ambitious. He quickly proposes to his emir to get closer to Al-Qaeda. The refusal is categorical. The organization has its own national identity, and there is no question of changing it’s activities to that of Bin Laden. It remains, however, that this difference of opinion weakens the leadership within an organization with internal struggles between, notably, two lieutenants. They are Abderrazak El Para, a former paratrooper and dreaded chief of zone 5 (eastern Algeria), covets the leadership of the movement and Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the smuggler, who supports the current chief.
The fight became fratricide. First: the manoeuvres of the “para” contribute to the downfall of Hattab, in August 2003, who was replaced by Nabil Sahraoui. Second, Abderrazak El Para was captured in Chad in March 2004. Third: Sahraoui was eliminated by the Algerian security forces in June 2004. The road was clear and Droukdel became the self-proclaimed “national emir” and can be set to direct a strategy of rapprochement with the sponsor of the attacks on the World Trade Center.
On September 11th, 2006, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s right hand man and ideologue of Al Qaeda, announced the allegiance of the Algerian organization, which was confirmed by a September 13th statement of its leader: “We pledge our allegiance to Sheikh Osama bin Laden. […] We will continue our jihad in Algeria. Our soldiers are at his command for attacks by us, what he wants and wherever he wants. ‘
The roadmap is an ambitious one: unite all the jihadist movements in the region (Tunisia, Morocco and Libya), support military operations against the coalition in Iraq or Afghanistan, transform southern Algeria and northern Sahara in a fallback area from which the jihadists can hit the “apostates” in Europe and the United States. Droukdel also deployed a marketing strategy. The ultra violence of the GIA and the battering of the Algerian army will eventually weaken the GSPC. The label “Al-Qaeda” then seems more promising. And it is on January 24th 2007 Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) was born. Its founder explains: “The group had to change its name to show the truth of the connection [with the parent company, Ed].”, and he ordered a campaign of suicide bombings based on the model of those committed in Iraq.
But this military strategy was not unanimously accepted. Many activists disavow this terror waged in Algeria. The uprising grew and from 2008 onwards, Droukdel supervised a shift of the center of gravity of the organization towards the Sahel. The main “deeds”: the successful blockade of the Paris-Dakar Rally, the murder of British hostage Edwin Dyer, a few ambushes against the Mauritanian Malian and Algerian armed forces, and, of course, the many lucrative hostage takings. But they are still far from Sahelian jihadism when AQIM is still controlled by both the Algerian leaders.
The Arab Spring occured just in time. Droukdel quickly understood the importance of this regional disorder for gaining important positions, promote the cause and give credit to the Salafist rhetoric. He ordered the infiltration of groups in Tunisia and also a few weeks later in Libya. At the same time, he tried to establish his authority in the Sahel. In November 2011, he replaced his permanent emissary Yahia Djouadi (Head of Zone 9, South Algeria and the Sahel) by Nabil Makhloufi (who died in a car accident September 8 2012), who was considered to be more effective in controlling Abou Zeid and Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the principal leaders of the katibas Mali. But these two have mastered the area and knowledge of the people. They are not like fish in the water, but as scorpions in the desert.
Tuareg rebellion launched in January 2012 by the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), followed by the coup against Malian President Amadou Toumani Touré, on March 21st, which provided a second opportunity to take advantage of the chaos in Bamako and advance his pawns in the Sahel which was suitable for all types of traffic and transform the Malian dunes into a rear base of international jihadism. To do this, he must win the hearts and minds of people. In May 2012, from the mountains of Kabylia, where he tried to escape the Algerian security forces, the terrorist said: “Do not provoke the population and do not apply the sharia immediately.” This speech was followed unevenly. The irresistible rise of the “dissidents” of the Movement for the uniqueness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), the rise of the “fundamentalist house” of Iyad Ag Ghali (Ansar Din), the autonomy of Abu Zeid and Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the first applications of Sharia … they all confirm what the experts supposed: Abdelmalek Droukdel exercises an evanescent control over his men.