Al Qaeda’s North African branch has claimed a rocket attack on a gas plant in the southern Algerian desert near the town of In Salah. The rocket barrage, which was directed at a joint BP-Norwegian Statoil facility, somehow left the gas plant unharmed and no one was injured yesterday.
In a statement released online and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) said the barrage was in response to Algeria’s “scandalous involvement with France in the war against the Muslims in northern Mali.” The jihadist group also said it intentionally tried to spare Muslim lives by not using “more powerful capabilities” in the attack, but that Muslims should stay away from such facilities in the future.
Additionally, AQIM said it sent a warning to Western oil companies operating in Algeria, stating they were targeting the facilities themselves and not their civilian workers. “We announce to all Western companies investing in shale gas that we will target you in a direct way, and we will use all our capabilities to deter you from these projects that are harmful to our environment and are rejected by our society,” AQIM said in the statement. But, AQIM noted that it will take the safety of Muslim employees and personnel into consideration. “If you want safety for your companies and personnel, then the matter is negotiable,” the statement read, “taking into consideration our dignity and the dignity of our Muslim people and their rights.”
AQIM said both BP and Statoil were warned of an impending barrage via phone calls before launching the rockets.
Al Qaeda has targeted gas and oil facilities in Algeria in the past. In early 2013, Al Murabitoon, which is led by veteran al Qaeda-loyalist Mokhtar Belmokhtar and is now part of AQIM, launched an attack on the Tigantourine gas facility near In Amenas, Algeria. Hundreds of people were taken hostage and 38 people were killed in the assault. That operation was led by a Nigerien jihadist, Abdul Rahman al Nigeri. (See Threat Matrix report, Algerian troops end siege at In Amenas gas facility and LWJ reports, Al Qaeda-linked group claims credit for kidnappings in Algeria and Nigerien jihadist identified as commander of Algerian hostage operation for more information.)
With the rocket barrage in Algeria, AQIM has now claimed or conducted attacks in four different countries in the span of a week. On March 11, suspected al Qaeda gunmen assaulted a Malian military checkpoint near the central city of Sevare. Two days later, AQIM killed 18 people in an attack on a beach resort popular with locals and tourists in southern Ivory Coast. And just two days ago, three Nigerien gendarmes were killed near Niger’s borders with Mali and Burkina Faso. Local media has blamed this raid on a Fulani brigade of Al Murabitoon. (See this map of al Qaeda-linked attacks in Mali and neighboring countries since 2014 by The Long War Journal for more information.)