AQIM Ten Years On

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Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s (AQIM) emergence ten years ago this month was a Hail Mary. In 2004, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika had orchestrated the second of two national amnesties in an attempt to finally bring an end to Algeria’s decade-old Islamist insurgency. The leader of one remaining terrorist organization, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), had just turned himself in. The GSPC’s new leader, Abdelmalek Droukdel, inherited a dispirited group that was struggling to remain relevant. Algerians were tired of the Islamists, the insurgency, and the violence.

By rebranding GSPC as AQIM in January 2007, Droukdel was able to transform a stale group into a newer, sexier one with a wider mission set. Now the goal was not simply the humdrum restoration of Algeria’s aborted democratic process, but perpetual global jihad. Initially, Droukdel met with success, carrying out a raft of deadly attacks in Algiers and environs, killing hundreds.

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