By Walid Ramzi
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is plagued by divisions, leadership clashes and waning influence, a letter from the terror group leader reveals.
“The organisation is sick,” Abdelmalek Droukdel said in a letter published in Algeria’s Echorouk on September 11th. “I have done my best to extrapolate the situation in spite of lacking access to information from the brigades and the units.”
Algerian security forces seized the letter during a recent arrest of one of the organisation members. He was planning to distribute the message to other AQIM members.
Droukdel, aka Abou Moussaab Abdelouadoud, pinned the blame on “terrorist members that no longer respect the decisions of their emirs”. He admitted that the emirs were stripped of all powers and that terrorists were carrying out random and “undisciplined” actions.
He noted “the fragility of the situation and the low morale among many of its members, and discontent with the emirs who are considered to be responsible for the situation”.
The organisation suffers from instability, internal problems as well as regulatory gaps due to lack of co-ordination and poorly defined responsibilities, the letter read.
Droukdel considered the acumen of security forces and their vigilance good enough to reduce the activity of the members. He pointed particularly to security barriers and the use of explosive detectors at all checkpoints, “which rendered movements and terrorist operations difficult”.
“The previous phase witnessed the elimination of a large number of field leaders, who had an effective role in the activation and implementation of our plans and their provisions,” he said in the letter.
In addition, the emir acknowledged that members of the terrorist organisation had conducted suspicious activities, which should be abandoned temporarily to earn “popular support”. He also called for punishing terrorist elements that refuse to carry out criminal activities, an explicit recognition that members of the organisation are no longer convinced of what they are doing.
This is not the first time that an al-Qaeda leader has admitted loss of influence over his members. Yet this time the confessions took a larger dimension since they coincided with a decline in terrorist operations, already in limited areas only. Security forces have thwarted a number of al-Qaeda activities lately.
Abdelkader Ben Messaoud, alias Moussaab Abu Daoud who headed Region 9 (Sahara), confirmed this internal strife in “The letter of advice and clarification to Algerian youth”. He stated that the armed organisation is divided into two wings, the salafist current and the “exodus and ex-communication”. Each one is trying to control the other.
He cited the example of the fierce rivalry between “Tariq ibn Ziyad” katibat boss Abdelhamid Abou Zeid and Mokhtar Belmokhtar, or “Laaouar”, who runs the El Moulethemine battalion. The former took control of the situation, which forced Laaouar to halt armed action. Reports circulated that Belmokhtar intended to surrender to Algerian authorities.
The content of Droukdel’s letter intersected with statements made by AQIM Political Committee chief Abu Abdallah Ahmad in an audio recording broadcast, recently by a site close to the organisation.
In this conversation, he said that the “Tawhid wal Jihad” group is composed of AQIM splinter members, thereby confirming the existence of differences and leadership rifts among the leaders of the jihadist salafist organisation in the Sahel.
Ahmad admitted the failures of al-Qaeda propaganda, blaming them on a “lack of educated members able to write in a proper manner”. Security operations conducted by the army dealt a heavy to the organisation, he acknowledged.
Earlier this month, Droukdel designated Al Vourghan brigade chief Jemal Oukacha, alias Yahya Abou El Hammam, as the new Sahara emir. The news came one month after former emir Nabil Makhloufi, alias Nabil Abu Alqama, was killed in a car crash between Gao and Timbuktu in Mali.