Schism and collapse of morale in Algeria’s GSPC

Publication: Terrorism Focus Volume: 2 Issue: 7

Recent forum traffic underlines how the Groupe salafiste pour la prédication et le combat (GSPC), the strongest remaining Islamist militant group in Algeria, is suffering severe morale and organizational problems, as the combined stick of military pressure and carrot of a general amnesty, take effect. On February 21 one Algerian contributor expressed his exasperation to the forum Al-Ma’sada, at the news of an attack on a military convoy three days earlier: “I do not agree with the killing at this stage of powerless soldiers or policemen” he writes, in the face of a chorus of opposing messages, “in that it does not advance the cause … and only widens the gap between [the Islamists] and the people” []. A recent reposting on the same forum of last June’s Declaration on Warring Against Foreigners, with its call to attack “foreign infidels within the borders of Algeria, whether they be individuals or their interests or their establishments,’ excited a number of commentaries. One contribution was typical of the despondent and cynical tone employed, and appears to have come from a member of the breakaway faction of the GSPC, (under the leadership of former emir Hassan Hattab). The writer washes his hands of the Declaration, and suggests sarcastically that the militants should start with the Berber converts to Christianity in that “these are quite near to your strongholds … I challenge you to undertake one simple action [against them] or even just issue a warning.”

The comments reflect a serious ideological hemorrhage and collapse of morale in the GSPC. At the end of January the militant preacher Omar Abdelhakim, alias Abu Mus’ab the Syrian, published his Memoirs of the Jihad in Algeria, in which he categorically withdrew his support for the current leadership and issued trenchant criticisms of their actions. Just over a week later the current GSPC leader Abdelwahab Droukdel, alias Abou Mossab Abdelwadoud, issued a fatwa posted on the GSPC website [] against his predecessor Hassan Hattab, accusing him of high treason. On February 17 came the reply in the Arabic daily El-Khabar, in which Hattab accused the current official GSPC of policies reminiscent of the GIA. Droukdel himself is criticized “for attacking civilian targets, like some common Djamel Zitouni or uncouth Antar Zouabri [former GIA leaders]”. Hattab also indicated that since the death of the last GSPC emir Nabil Sahraoui, remnants of the GIA have been infiltrating the leadership of the GSPC [].

The effects of the rift are becoming apparent. Despite the official manifesto — ‘no truce, no dialogue, no conciliation, no security agreement and no covenant of protection, but destruction, ruin, assassination and devastation’ — the Algerian daily L’Expression reported on February 23 from a military source that up to 60 GSPC militants were preparing to accept the amnesty []. Meanwhile the military is preparing the ground for an acceleration of surrenders, by setting up areas of ‘non-aggression’ in the Sid-Ali-Bounab forest on the border of the Boumerdès and Tizi Ouzou regions. This is where the GSPC and allied groups have lately been most active, and also where Hattab is believed to be campaigning for the adoption of the amnesty.