Robert Fowler was kidnapped by Mokhtar Belmokhtar’s not-so-merry band of terrorists in 2008 and published a book about the experience, “A Season In Hell: My 130 Days in the Sahara with Al Qaeda.” From the excerpts I’ve read, the title accurately sums up Fowler’s experience. Belmokhtar’s group is, of course, responsible for the recent assault on a natural gas field in eastern Algeria and the subsequent hostage crisis.
Fowler, a Canadian diplomat who was serving the United Nations when he was kidnapped, has had some interesting things to say about Belmokhtar and his henchmen.
ABC News reports:
“I was afraid for my life all the time,” recalled Fowler, “when I woke up in the morning and when I went to sleep at night.” …
Fowler also said Belmokhtar’s band was made up of “experienced desert fighters” who hate the West. “I can’t tell you the extent to which they hate us,” he said. “They believe we are evil incarnate. They believe the West is one great Sodom and Gomorrah.”
Some have tried to portray Belmokhtar as a mere criminal. There is plenty of evidence in our write-ups of the siege in Algeria showing that is not true. While Belmokhtar has certainly engaged in wide-ranging criminal activity, it has only served his broader objectives. Fowler is describing ideologues, not criminals.
Then there is this from The Wall Street Journal:
Mr. Belmokhtar appears to have been the principal intermediary between AQIM and al Qaeda in Pakistan, according to analysts who follow the sect, including Robert Fowler, a Canadian diplomat.
Now that is interesting, isn’t it? In a few of our pieces we noted that, according to the Associated Press, Belmokhtar’s spokesman said just over one month ago that “they remain under the orders of al Qaeda central.”
The WSJ notes that Belmokhtar is a bit of a myth-maker when it comes to his biography. The article concludes with these paragraphs [emphasis added]:
Some militants remained unsure of Mr. Belmokhtar’s arrangement. “AQIM, Belmokhtar, we don’t know what their situation is,” said Algabass Ag Intallah, a commander with Ansar Dine, one of the militias in Mali that received weapons and recruits from AQIM.
But on Wednesday, Mr. Hamaha, a commander in AQIM who says he answers to Mr. Belmokhtar, said the entire organization was responsible for the Algerian attack, in retaliation against a common foe–France, for intervening in Mali.
“Now, you’re going to see what you’ve unleashed,” he said.
Keep in mind that even though Belmokhtar broke off from al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) to forge his own group, there are numerous reports that his group still fights alongside AQIM and its allies.