Suicide bombers kill 18 in attack on Algerian military academy

Eight people, including including 16 soldiers, were killed today in a suicide attack on a military academy in Algeria.

The attack took place at a military academy in the town of Cherchell just as soldiers were breaking their Ramadan fast. It is unclear if one or two suicide bombers were used in the attack.

The first blast occurred outside the mess hall at Cherchell, according to AFP. As soldiers rushed out to aid those wounded, a suicide bomber riding a motorcycle detonated his explosives in the crowd of people, according to The Associated Press. Victims of the attack included 20 who were injured.

While no group has claimed credit for today’s attack, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is suspected to have carried out the bombings. AQIM has previously claimed credit for executing several other suicide attacks in Algeria and in neighboring countries.

AQIM has stepped up suicide attacks

Today’s suicide attack is the third of its kind in Algeria this year, as well as the third since mid-July. On July 16, a pair of AQIM suicide bombers killed four people, including three policemen, in an attack on a headquarters in the Kabylie region, which serves as a safe haven for the terror group.

And on Aug. 14, an AQIM suicide bomber detonated his car bomb outside of a police station, wounding 29 people, including 11 policemen. The blast took place in Tizi-Ouzou, an area with a strong al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb presence. AQIM later took credit for the attack.

Prior to this summer, the last suicide attack reported in Algeria took place on July 25, 2010, when a suicide bomber attacked a security barracks in a village near Tizi Ouzou.

AQIM’s three suicide attacks over the span of six weeks after nearly a one-year lull signals that the terror group is putting more emphasis on the terror tactic.

AQIM suicide attacks have tapered off since 2008. In 2010 there were two reported suicide attacks in the country; in 2009 there was just one such attack. In 2008, there were five suicide attacks, and in 2007, there were four such attacks. The most effective attacks took place in 2007 and 2008 [see list below]; during those years, suicide bombers targeted the prime minister’s office, Interpol, the United Nations, and Algerian Special Police headquarters in Algiers.

In the vast majority of the attacks (14 of 15 attacks) from 2007-2011, the targets were the police or military. The exception is the Dec. 11, 2007 strike that targeted the UN offices and a court building in Algiers.

Since 2008, AQIM has shifted its tactics from high-profile suicide bombings to ambushes against security forces as well as kidnapping operations, which are reported to net the terror group millions of dollars a year.

The formation of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in 2006 was the result of al Qaeda’s efforts to unite the various Salafist terror groups in North Africa. AQIM is comprised of the Algerian Salafist Group for Prayer and Combat (GSPC), the Moroccan Islamic Combat Group, the Tunisian Combatant Group, and elements of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. The GSPC forms the nucleus of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

While the GSPC has always had a very close relationship with al Qaeda, the terror group officially merged with al Qaeda in September of 2006. GSPC officially renamed the group al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in January of 2007. “We had wished to do this from the first day we joined (al Qaeda) but we wanted the permission of Sheikh Osama, may God protect him. This obstacle has now been removed,” according to a GSPC statement released on its website.

Suicide attacks in Algeria, 2007-2011:

  • Aug. 26, 2011: A suicide attack on an Algerian military academy in Cherchell killed 18 people, including 16 soldiers, and wounded 20 more.
  • Aug. 14, 2011: AQIM claimed credit for a suicide attack that wounded 29 people in an attack on a police station in Tizi Ouzou.
  • July 16, 2011: A pair of suicide bombers killed three policemen and a security guard in the town of Bordj Menaiel in the Kabylie region.
  • July 25, 2010: AQIM took credit for a suicide bombing at a security barracks in a village near Tizi Ouzou on July 25, in which the group claimed 36 people were killed and wounded.
  • June 11, 2010: A suicide bomber attacked a police barracks in the town of Timizar in the Kabylia region, killing nine people and wounding 20.
  • March 7, 2009: A suicide bomber targeted a police barracks in the town of Tizi Ouzou. A security guard and a civilian were killed and eight more were wounded in the attack.
  • Sept. 28, 2008: Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at a police checkpoint in Dellys that killed three and wounded six.
  • Aug. 3, 2008: A suicide bomber wounded 25 Algerians, including four policemen, in an attack in the town of Tizi Ouzou. The bomber attacked a police station. Al Qaeda begins to deploy female suicide bombers in North Africa.
  • June 4, 2008: A suicide bomber wounded five Algerians in an attack outside a police barracks on the outskirts of Algiers.
  • Jan. 29, 2008: A car bombing in the town of Thenia killed four people and wounded 23. A police checkpoint was the target of the bombing.
  • Jan. 2, 2008: A suicide bomber killed four policemen in an attack on a police station in the town of Naciria.
  • Dec. 11, 2007: A pair of suicide bombers killed more than 30 people in an attack on UN offices and a court building in Algiers.
  • Sept. 8, 2007: A suicide bomber killed 28 people in an attack on a naval barracks in the coastal town of Dellys.
  • Sept. 6, 2007 : A suicide bomber struck in the town of Batna just prior to the arrival of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. The attack killed 15 people and wounded 70.
  • April 11, 2007 : Suicide bombers killed more than 30 people in attacks that targeted the prime minister’s office, Interpol’s headquarters, and the Special Police headquarters.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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