Despite the high-profile June 4 attack on a Mauritanian military outpost (see Terrorism Focus, Volume II, Issue 11), evidence exists of increasing exasperation among the Algerian jihadis. The reaction to the al-Qaeda murder of two Algerian diplomats in Iraq on July 27 demonstrated how out of touch the mujahideen are with the Algerian population, which reacted negatively to Groupe Salafiste pour la Prédication et le Combat (GSPC) leader Abu Mus’ab Abd al-Wadoud’s support for the assassinations.
A recent series of announcements and publications has underlined, with growing shrillness, the threat posed by creeping ‘secularization’ in Algeria, against which the group is powerless. At the beginning of August the GSPC issued a plea to Algerians in France to do what the mujahideen in Algeria cannot—get close enough to assassinate Algerian leaders. But the message also underlined the real problem facing the mujahideen, when it listed their true enemies: “Not just the military leadership, but [secularizing bodies such as] the media … cultural institutes and diplomatic missions. The danger of these civilian bodies is several times greater than the generals … since these direct campaigns against [Islamic principles in] the Family Law and the education system.” [www.salafia.ne1.net]
The issue of secular education merited a particular declaration addressed to those of university age. The communiqué dated August 1, Shahdh al-Himma li-Shabab al-Umma, (Whetting the Will of the Nation’s Youth) expressed its frustration at the lack of response by young Algerians to the news of the jihads in Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and ascribed the torpor to conspiratorial measures to distract and corrupt these youths—which it lamented as successful. The tone of the posting is resentful: “where did you vanish to in these [last] years?” it complains. “Has your desire to gain a university diploma and a future and a better life distracted you from studying what Allah has to offer you?” Instead, is it not time, it continues, “to leave children’s playgrounds and the coffee shops of the penniless unemployed and instead join the battlefields of the heroes?” [www.salafia.ne1.net]
The message was reinforced in the fourth edition of the GSPC magazine al-Jama’ah released September 2005. It quotes bin Ladin as saying “if I were a student among you I would leave my studies … to follow the squadrons of the mujahideen.” The call to arms forms the cover theme of the edition. The essay “Youths of the Islamic Maghreb, This is your Day” outlines the latest developments in the growing U.S. presence in Northwest Africa. Deploring the numbers of “doomed individuals” who have responded to the amnesty, the essay addressed to all youth of the Islamic Maghreb (understood to mean all of North and Northwest Africa) and put forward the offer of joining “an elite group of young men driven by faith” to aid their eastern brothers and fight the “American cowboys” (“a vicious fool that crumbles after the first strike”) nearer to home in the northern and western desert zones. In particular it highlights the strategic advantages of opening up a new front against the enemy and makes a call to jihad-minded members of the Algerian military, whose expertise now “is desperately sought by the training camps of jihad.” [Al-Jama’ah IV, pp. 25-29]
The pressure on the mujahideen has increased this month with the latest amnesty proposal scheduled for September 29. Among its provisions are the controversial offers to drop charges against rebels who laid down their arms after the January 13 2000 civil concord deadline, and re-establish the rights of Islamists who lost their jobs in the crackdown carried out during the 1990s. But the jihad has some way to go. Algeria’s Prime Minister Ahmad Ouyahia has said some 1,000 armed Muslim fundamentalists are still at large, and that while some hundreds are likely—based on past performance—to respond to the latest amnesty, “there will always be the hard core who will never take up the offer of peace.”