On Belmokhtar’s group: ‘They believe the West is one great Sodom and Gomorrah’

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.

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

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  • mike merlo says:

    It also sounds like the progenitors of an ongoing Criminal Enterprise.

  • blert says:

    I think us Westerners have a misapprehension as to what ‘breaking off from AQIM’ means to Salafist warriors.
    Rather than assuming it represents any kind of split — we should take it to mean that a new Franchisee has been spun off.
    It’s notable that AQ Franchises chronically ‘split off’ just when they’ve established islamist street cred.
    It was, and remains, a core purpose of AQ to function as a Master Franchisor: providing a ‘feral tool kit’ to its spawn.
    The Algerians know from harsh experience that the hostages are dead men walking. The fanatics launched their whole operation with suicide troops. From the first, they never expected to walk away. Their goal is to take down as many Westerners/ infidels as inhumanly possible.
    There are no points of negotiation with this crowd. It’s very significant that they’ve raced, under fire, to the most sensitive part of the plant, with explosives in hand.
    They’ve taken their drama straight from Aliens, the film.
    They are now holed up, waiting for the infidels to charge them — so that they can go down in a blood bath.
    The other, recent, movie that inspires them is Inglourious Basterds.
    Absolutely no-one is going to talk them down, collectively, after they’ve consecrated their aims in the blood of their brothers. (Literally brothers, too, I suspect.)
    Algeria needs Imams,Priests and Doctors — and a timely phone call to Moscow for advice on how to handle corralled suicide-fanatics.
    ( You know it’s a suicide operation when the fanatics have no escape route under any condition.)

  • Hibeam says:

    We should form a committee to determine whether we should think about doing something.


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