Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is a militant Islamist group founded in Algeria but operating throughout Algeria and the countries that comprise North Africa’s Sahel region. AQIM was originally founded as The Groupe salafiste pour la prédication et le combat (Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC)) in 1998. The GSPC officially merged with Al Qaeda (AQ) in September 2006, subsequently changing its name to AQIM, and announcing the name change in January 2007 in recognition of AQ’s acceptance of it becoming an affiliate organization.

Since its merger with Al Qaeda, AQIM has also adopted a global jihad ideology. The group has maintained a high operational tempo since its emergence under the name of AQIM, employing conventional terrorist tactics in Algeria, including guerilla-style ambushes and improvised explosive devices against military personnel and truck bombs against government targets. AQIM continues to kidnap Westerners and hold them for ransom in return for the release of imprisoned Islamic militants.

AQIM and its allied militant groups have undergone an operational revival since late 2015, expanding their area of operations and mounting high-profile attacks in Burkina Faso and Mali. Local and regional concerns play a role in these, but a more significant factor is the growing rivalry with Daesh in northwest Africa. AQIM and other AQ affiliates are conscious that Daesh intentionally carries out attention-grabbing attacks in multiple regions of the world prompting AQ affiliates to match Daesh with high-profile attacks of their own.

Recent Developments

On November 20, 2015, 20 people were killed and 170 people were taken hostages at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako, Mali. Al-Murabitoun claimed credit for the attack and indicated that it was a joint operation with the Saharan branch of AQIM.

On January 15, 2016, four jihadists attacked the Splendid Hotel and nearby Cappuccino Café in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. At least 29 people including six Canadians were killed. AQIM claimed responsibility for the attack but added that the gunmen were from the Al-Murabitoun group. 

On March 13, 2016, three AQIM militants opened fire on people at the beach in the town on Grand Bassam, Ivory Coast. At least 15 civilians were killed and a total of 33 people were injured. AQIM claimed responsibility for the attack. 

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