By Rida Lyammouri

April 17th, 2016

On 10 April 2016 an article quoting Algerian security sources claimed members of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) joined the so-called Islamic State (IS) in south Libya. Security investigators indicated that this was a result of existing tensions among AQIM. According to the article, 10 drug and weapons traffickers in northern Mali and southern Niger arrested recently in south Algeria reported that more than 14 terrorists from AQIM branch Grand Sahara branch under Yahya Abu al-Hammam joined IS in south Libya in mid-March 2016. The article added that the defectors were mostly Mauritanians with 4 Algerians. These defectors were not happy about who is going to replace Abdelhamid Abu Zeid who was killed in February 2013 in northern Mali.

This information doesn’t make sense and here are few reasons I could think of why on top of my head:

  • The main source is a group of drug traffickers from northern Mali and south Niger. Drug traffickers unlikely to make a difference of who is who and they are not interested to know because simply they don’t care, they are all about business and tensions among AQIM is non of their business to avoid any risks of getting in the mix. While northern Malian traffickers are more or so familiar with AQIM, traffickers from south of Niger not so much.
  • AQIM leaders are very secretive and very careful. Often there is little to no information about the group and its leaders except on what themselves wanted to report or discovered and shared by state forces. AQIM members know drug dealers are not to be trusted and will give them away to save their lives when necessary, so unlikely, even if true, even those defected to join IS in Libya will share that information with them.
  • Previous allegiances pledged by AQIM brigades that defected to IS were announced by their respective leaders. A major move coming from an AQIM brigade that is making most of the noise for the group in recent months wouldn’t go unnoticed and would have been reported by more than just 10 traffickers arrested.
  • While rumors and articles talked about concerns of IS in Libya moving south there has been no evidence to confirm that. So there is no IS branch in south Libya that the article claimed defected AQIM members have joined.
  • The replacement for Abu Zeid was named in September 2013 and was identified as Said Abou Moughatil. So if there were any tensions maybe were three years ago.

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    Said Abou Moughatil. Source: Jeune Afrique