Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 17


Abu Abdallah Ahmad, head of the Political Committee of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), has discussed the progress and setbacks of AQIM’s jihad in North Africa in a 38-minute audio interview (Al-Fajr Media Center, May 4).

In reviewing the two years since the Algerian GSPC transformed into the pan-Maghrebi AQIM, Abu Abdallah lists the group’s most significant achievement as taking the battle out of a domestic context and placing it in a regional and international framework, the only suitable approach for confronting the “alliance of the War on Islam.” The idea of separating an internal enemy from an external enemy is “unfounded in Islam.”

Abu Abdallah also claims recruits from neighboring countries are now coming to Algeria, “the land of steadfastness and jihad.” Even AQIM’s Shura Council has been recomposed to accommodate the presence of “our immigrant brothers from the Islamic Maghreb.”

According to Abu Abdallah, the Algerian government forces news agencies to continue referring to AQIM as the “GSPC” (Groupe Salafiste pour la Prédication et le Combat) in order to downplay the significance of the restructuring. The AQIM leader maintains that the group is in line with al-Qaeda’s policies and refers to allegations that AQIM does not enjoy Osama Bin Laden’s complete support as “mere falsehood and fabrication.”

In response to claims AQIM has no political, social or economic plan, Abu Abdallah replies that the suggestion Islam is insufficient as a means of governing a modern, scientific state dates back to the 1924 elimination of the Caliphate by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and can be dealt with in three ways:

1) All the Western and Eastern theories (i.e. capitalism and communism) have already been tried in Algeria and proved to be a complete failure.

2) If their opponents believe that AQIM cannot develop an Islamic state and society, why do they not step aside and allow the Islamists to take power and thus display their alleged incompetence. If the people then break away from the Islamist project, “we come to an end with fewer losses and shorter time.”

3) The examples of the Afghan Taliban, the Islamic Courts of Somalia and the Islamic State of Iraq demonstrate the mujahideen’s ability to implement Shari’a with limited resources.

When asked about the impact of former GSPC leader Hassan Hattab’s public recantation of jihadi ideology, Abu Abdullah says this was something the group expected. “Simply, Hattab does not have any influence or respect in the mujahideen circles. On the contrary, the mujahideen has considered him for years a traitor who sold his eternity for his life. Many of the mujahideen have not heard or followed his so-called revisions; thus, these revisions made no difference to them.” Abu Abdallah denies that the commander of AQIM’s Al-Ansar Brigade, Abu Tamim (a.k.a. Ali Ben Touati), surrendered voluntarily to authorities as a result of Hattab’s appeal, claiming he was instead arrested while driving.

Abu Abdallah describes the situation in Sudan as part of a plan of the Crusader alliance to divide Muslim countries by using religious, ethnic and cultural minorities. He points to the examples of East Timor, Iraqi Kurdistan and South Sudan as proof of this plan, adding that the Crusaders are now attempting to take possession of Darfur to “steal its resources.” The AQIM leader suggests that the Sudanese begin preparations to fight the Crusaders and not rely on their “apostate government,” which is “no better than the regime and army of Saddam [Hussein].” Abu Abdallah’s comments here are revealing – in extreme takfiri fashion, he casts even the Islamist-military Sudanese government, which has imposed Shari’a at great political cost, into the role of “apostates to Islam.”

Abu Abdullah also refers to George Washington’s efforts to reach agreement with the Corsairs of the Barbary Coast (modern Maghreb) to prevent piracy against American ships in the Mediterranean and liberate nearly 120 American captives. At the time most European nations paid tribute to the pirates to allow commercial shipping to go on unhindered. The AQIM leader uses this historical reference to challenge the Muslims of the Maghreb to turn away from submission to the United States and the West:

"Did not I tell you that George Washington requested your friendliness, sent gifts and asked for your permission for the movement of his commercial vessels in the Mediterranean Sea at the time that Europe was paying taxes to you under your military power in a humiliating way? O my nation, nowadays I see that you have become an easy prey to each treacherous infidel. In addition, your sea has become a harbor for their navies, your land has become bases for their armies, your capitals have become a fertile ground for their spies and a field for their experiments and your honor has become a cheap property for their homosexuals."

Elsewhere in North Africa, Abu Abdullah reminds the Muslims of the Maghreb of their failure to “liberate” Ceuta and Melilla, the Spanish-controlled Moroccan ports that are the last vestige of Spain’s African Empire. Abu Abdallah also applauds the expulsion of the Israeli Embassy from Nouackchott in Mauritania, but warns of “the powers of the Jewish community in Morocco” and their influence over the King and the royal family.


Though it has never been used in a terrorist attack, the supposed usefulness of the deadly poison ricin in such operations continues to generate headlines and terrorism charges, the latest coming in Durham County, England.  

Dubious reports of ricin experiments conducted by Ansar al-Islam in northern Iraq in 2002 were followed by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell’s assertions to the U.N. Security Council in February 2003 that an al-Qaeda laboratory in Georgia was creating ricin-based weapons under the direction of the late leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The uneducated Zarqawi was given credit for doing in a rude shed what a number of well-funded and sophisticated Western weapons laboratories were unable to do in years of effort – weaponize ricin.

Since the poison cannot be absorbed by the skin, it is necessary to have victims either ingest or inhale the ricin. Since only the latter would be practical for a weapon, numerous attempts were made by weapons laboratories in the 20th century to aerosolize ricin, all meeting with disappointing results. Once Sarin gas and other nerve agents became available, further research into the use of ricin as a weapon was abandoned (apparently except for some KGB lab that developed a complex means of surreptitiously injecting ricin into a victim’s bloodstream – used only once on Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov in London in 1978).

A 41-year-old lorry driver and his 18-year-old milkman son were arrested under the UK’s Terrorism Act 2000 after June 2 raids on their homes in the Durham County villages of Burnopfield and Annfield Plain (Independent, June 5). Tests in a government laboratory in Edinburgh revealed traces of ricin in a sealed, airtight jam jar kept in a kitchen cupboard. The material was sent for further tests at the Ministry of Defence establishment in Porton Down. Police assured the public that “no one is believed to have been exposed to the substance or be at risk of any potential ill-effects. We do not believe that there is any risk to public health” (Independent, June 5). According to Durham’s assistant chief constable, “This shows that the terrorist threat in the UK is real” (Times, June 6).
The London tabloid Daily Express reported that the traces of ricin in the jam jar were “intended for use as part of a biological weapon against blacks and Asians” (Daily Express, June 6). The tabloid failed to mention that no such weapon yet exists, nor did it suggest how the suspects, of limited means and education, were to develop such a weapon. Nevertheless, the “biological weapon” was being reported the next day in India under the headline, “UK poison plot against Asians, blacks, busted” (Times of India, June 7).

Britain’s Independent linked the poison to al-Qaeda without mentioning the fascination right-wing extremists have with ricin, surely more relevant in the case of two alleged white supremacists. To underscore the alleged threat, the newspaper stated ricin as the agent used in the March 1995 attack on the Tokyo subway by the Aum cult that left 12 dead, when in fact the agent was Sarin gas (Independent, June 5).
The 18-year-old suspect, Nicky Davison, was charged with possessing information useful to committing a terrorist act on June 9 and released on bail (BBC, June 9). The manual police described as containing information and instructions on the use or production of firearms, explosives and chemicals was a volume of The Poor Man’s James Bond, a four volume work by Kurt Saxon directed at American survivalists and militia members. First published in the 1970s, the volumes describe how to manufacture weapons, set booby traps, make explosives and develop poisons, including ricin. Davison has been charged with disseminating the work, though it is easily available from book-retailing websites and right-wing extremist sites alike (Northern Echo [Darlington], June 13).
Earlier this month a small pile of white powder found on a table near the ROTC office at Utah’s Salt Lake University caused a small panic due to fears it may have been ricin. Over 200 people were ordered out of the building while National Guard units and Hazmat crews tested for ricin. The powder was also tested for anthrax, radioactivity and various biological viruses, all coming up negative.  Early reports indicated the two teaspoons of powder looked similar to baby formula ( [Salt Lake City], June 4; Salt Lake Tribune, June 4; Deseret News [Salt Lake City], June 13).

And in Washington State a man has been charged with trying to poison his wife with ricin after traces were found in her urine. The suspect explained to police he had bought the ricin to exterminate moles in the family yard (UPI, June 9). Though newspapers are often fond of noting ricin is 6,000 times more poisonous than cyanide, most internet recipes for homemade ricin from castor beans produce, at best, a highly diluted concentration of ricin that would need to be consumed in large amounts to create a fatal dose.

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