Nigerien jihadist identified as commander of Algerian hostage operation


Abdul-Rahman-al-Nigeri .jpg

Abdul Rahman al Nigeri. Image from the Nouakchott News Agency, via the SITE Intelligence Group.

The commander of the raid on an Algerian facility that produces 10 percent of the country's natural gas exports and who is still holding foreign hostages has been identified as a seasoned jihadist from the country of Niger.

Abdul Rahman al Nigeri, who is also known as Abu Dujana, is leading the raid at the In Amenas facility in southeastern Algeria that has so far resulted in the deaths of several foreign and Algerian hostages.

Reports of the exact number of foreigners and Algerian hostages killed and still in the custody of the al Qaeda-linked group remain unclear more than one day after Algerian security forces launched an attack on the facility to retake the complex and free the hostages. The al Qaeda-linked jihadists are demanding the release of Omar Abdel Rahman (the "Blind Sheikh") and Aafia Siddiqui ("Lady Al Qaeda"), as well as an end to the French intervention in Mali [see LWJ report, Al Qaeda group demands release of 2 well-known jihadists].

Al Nigeri is leading an assault team estimated at 40 fighters from the al-Mua'qi'oon Biddam, or Those who Sign with Blood Brigade, according to two articles published by the Nouakchott News Agency, a Mauritanian news service that has close links to jihadists in the region. The articles were obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.

The jihadist assault team is said to have infiltrated Algeria from Niger, according to the Nouakchott News Agency. CNN reported that the attack was launched from Libya and and the fighters were trained at camps linked to al Qaeda.

The al-Mua'qi'oon Biddam assault unit was split into two teams, one that was led by Abu al-Bara'a al-Jaza'iri, who took hostages in the residential area of the facility, and another by al Nigeri himself, who targeted the factory and is also holding hostages there. Al Jaza'iri is reported to have been killed during the Algerian military assault. Al Nigeri claimed that the Algerian military killed 16 of his fighters and 35 hostages in an airstrike on vehicles that were transporting the hostages. Several foreign fighters, including a Frenchman, a Malian, two Tunisians, two Libyans, and three Egyptians are said to have been killed.

According to the Nouakchott News Agency, al Nigeri "is from one of the Arab tribes in Niger and joined the Algerian Salafist Group for Call and Combat in Azawad during the first half of 2005." The Salafist Group for Call and Combat, or GSPC, officially joined al Qaeda in 2006 and adopted the name al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Al Nigeri is a senior lieutenant to Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the head of the al-Mua'qi'oon Biddam. Although Belmokhtar split with AQIM in December 2012, he still conducts joint operations with the group. Belmokhtar reports directly to al Qaeda's central leadership, according to his spokesman. Al Qaeda central tightened its control over AQIM's hostage operations in late 2010. [See LWJ report, Analysis: Al Qaeda central tightened control over hostage operations.]

Al Nigeri is described as "the man of difficult missions in the brigade," or essentially the leader of Belmokhtar's special operations team. In June 2005, al Nigeri led the GSPC team that assaulted a Mauritanian military barracks in Lamghiti in northern Mauritania. Seventeen Mauritanian soldiers were killed in the attack.



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READER COMMENTS: "Nigerien jihadist identified as commander of Algerian hostage operation"

Posted by mike merlo at January 18, 2013 7:44 PM ET:

he looks like leftover 'French' from France's colonial days

Posted by gb at January 19, 2013 10:38 AM ET:

I have no idea of the calibre of Algerian troops that conducted the first HR attempt, but lot's of people died and the standoff continued. Looks like a rather clumsy attempt at rescue. With the quality of entry teams that the U.S. and Britan have at their disposal, it baffles me as to why the Algerians didn't take advantage. I hope the answer isn't pride.

Posted by Stephanie at January 19, 2013 1:10 PM ET:

A lot of people conjecture that AQ is metastosizing across Africa and that Africa is going to be the new battleground for Islamists. Hopefully the situation in Algeria will be able to be controlled.

Does anyone have an idea what the popularity level is for Islamists among the Algerian people? Is there a lot of sympathy for that idealogy or not?

Posted by KingJaja at January 19, 2013 1:48 PM ET:

He could either be Tuareg, Berber or Shuwa (Arab). The people of the Sahel are quite diverse.

Posted by m3fd2002 at January 19, 2013 2:29 PM ET:

32 jihadists dead/23 hostages. A high toll. But giving the logistics involved, I chalk one up for the Algerian troops. A thought one was "captured", but he probably was dispatched quickly. I have can understand the tactics that the Algerians use, much like the Russians. Take no prisoners. We have to remember the mentality of the jihadists, who expect to be martyred.

Posted by Nick at January 19, 2013 4:51 PM ET:

From latest news, I presume Abdul Rahman al Nigeri has now been permanently retired. Mokhtar Belmokhtar probably on many hits lists now - wouldn't want to borrow his cellphone for a bit.

Posted by Mike at January 19, 2013 5:35 PM ET:

Come on Bill! It's the Global Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, hence the GSPC and they merged with al-Qa'ida in 2006, not 2007. You're better than that!!

Posted by Thaffar maaitah at January 20, 2013 1:01 AM ET:

"al-Mua'qi'oon Biddam" battalion is leaded by the Algerian "Khalid abo Alabbas "( mukhtar bilmukhtar ) which he established newly after being removed form the command of masked battalion. Mukhtar adhered to the AQIM decision and still and still cooperating with all militants in regarding the crisis in Mali .. Mukhtar is responsible for most of the kidnapping cases in that region.

Thaffar maaitah

Posted by melvin polatnick at January 20, 2013 10:13 AM ET:

There is no sensible alternative but to immediately kill hostage takers. But that type of crime can be nipped in the bud by giving criminals a longer leash. Drug dealers and pimps should not be harassed by the vice squad, but allowed to prosper. The penniless have no choice except to resort to home invasion and muggings; hostage taking is the most desperate act.

Posted by Hibeam at January 20, 2013 10:24 PM ET:

Osama is no longer viewing porn in a shack in Pakistan. And yet his followers fight on? Who would have guessed?

Posted by Caleb at January 21, 2013 12:16 AM ET:

@Stephanie: I'm not too sure about the support among the general populace of Algeria, but there seems to be a few jihadist groups located in the country. If my research is correct, during the Algerian Civil War (when the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria was waging their "struggle" against the Algerian government) is when the jihadist movement seemed to pick up in the region. Hope that helped answer your question in any way.

Posted by jean at January 21, 2013 10:09 AM ET:

Any clown with a cause or beef is going to flock to the AQ banner. Africa has more than its fair share of disaffected groups. The Berber’s have a long history of resisting outsiders. It would be another disaster to allow extremist Islam to secure a foothold in that region as they did Afghanistan. The educated and merchant class will flee the country…..the rest will be easy to manipulate.

Posted by Will Fenwick at January 21, 2013 6:53 PM ET:

@ melvin polatnick - Drug running, human trafficking, and kidnapping are what gave AQIM the strength it needed to take over all of northern mali in the first place. A lax attitude like the one you suggest is what was already in place and is what gave the Salafists the resources to fund their campaign in Mali in the first place.
Kidnapping by terrorists while often one of the first fundraising tools used in nascent insurgencies, is usually never abandoned once other forms of revenue are acquired (drug running/production, revolutionary taxes, ect). This is because insurgencies generally hold a desire to extract as much as possible from all possible sources of income to fuel their insurgencies. The more money an insurgent group has the more weapons it can buy and men it can pay it do its dirty work. For example FARC in Columbia has massive cocaine production operations that bring in huge amounts of revenue, yet until recently they also still regularly conducted kidnappings to help augment the funding of their operations.