Al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb

Background

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  • Al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) was founded in 2007 and is al-Qa’ida’s North Africa affiliate. AQIM was formerly known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, a splinter group of the Armed Islamic Group, both of which fought against Algeria’s secular government.
  • Abdelmalek Droukdel has led AQIM and its predecessor groups since 2004. He cited religious motives for his group becoming an al-Qa’ida affiliate; this strategic decision also unified loosely connected brigades, enhancing recruitment and fundraising. The group continues to kidnap and kill Western civilians and business employees.
  • AQIM finances operations through drug smuggling, protection rackets, and weapons trafficking, as well as the kidnapping and ransom of Westerners in North and West Africa. The group targets civilians, including Westerners, in public places such as hotels and restaurants. In August, AQIM attacked a restaurant in Burkina Faso, killing 18.
  • In March 2017, Iyad Ag Ghali formed the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims, or Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM), which brought together four existing al-Qa’ida organizations under one banner, including AQIM, Ansar al-Dine, al-Mourabitoun, and the Macina Liberation Front. Since the merger, the group claimed responsibility for 73 attacks.

Threat to New Jersey: Low

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AQIM has not demonstrated the intent and capability to plan and carry out an attack in the United States or New Jersey. AQIM’s operational focus is North and West Africa, and its membership includes few foreign fighters. While AQIM is hostile toward the West, the group’s efforts in targeting Western assets remain largely focused on Europe.

  • AQIM has never attacked the United States; however, the group’s leadership continues to reinforce targeting Western interests. In March 2016, after carrying out an attack on a hotel in the Ivory Coast that killed a number of Westerners, the group reminded Western “Crusaders” that “you either leave us safe in our homelands, or we will spill your security and the security of your citizens.”
  • There are no known US citizens in AQIM’s ranks, and unlike fellow al-Qa’ida affiliate al-Shabaab in Somalia, there is no large diaspora community in the United States for AQIM to leverage for recruitment or operations.
  • AQIM operates in Algeria, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Tunisia, focusing on ridding North Africa of regimes it deems apostates, as well as Western influence. After attacking a British Petroleum facility in Algeria, AQIM stated, “We announce to all the Western companies that are investing in rock gas that we will target you directly.”

US Nexus

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  • Between November 2015 and March 2016, two US citizens were killed, among other Westerners, in hotel attacks conducted jointly by AQIM and al-Mourabitoun in Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, and Mali.
  • In September 2015, AQIM called multinational corporations attractive targets. Major US-based companies such as Citibank, Halliburton, and Hess have facilities in AQIM’s areas of operation. In January 2013, AQIM led an attack against the Tigantourine natural gas facility near In Amenas, Algeria, killing 67, including three US citizens.
  • In June 2009, AQIM killed a US aid worker during a failed kidnapping attempt. Five months later, the group failed to kidnap US Embassy personnel.

For more information, please contact NJOHSP's Analysis Bureau at analysis@njohsp.gov or 609-584-4000.