Threat of Al-Qa’idah in Maghreb states said « exaggerated »; US seeks « foothold »

Threat of Al-Qa’idah in Maghreb states said « exaggerated »; US seeks « foothold » 
Dr Muhammad Darif, writer and researcher in the affairs of Islamic groups, has revealed that a segment of the security and political leaders, which he described as « influential » in the Arab Maghreb states and which tends to reject political and democratic openness, is exaggerating the danger of Al-Qa’idah, which already exists in the Arab Maghreb states, to justify their security grip. He said that this objective agrees with the wish of the United States to look for a political cover to have control over Africa in order to face the growing Chinese threat in the black continent. In exclusive statements to Quds Press, Darif said that there is no doubt about the existence of Al-Qa’idah organization in the Arab Maghreb states. He said: « Al-Qa’idah in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb [AQLIM] is an existing organization. This organization emanated from the civil war experienced by Algeria in the 1990s when the armed Islamic Group emerged. Then, there were some deviations in the group. Thus, the Salafi Group for Call and Combat was formed in 1998. Since its establishment, this group had ties with Al-Qa’idah organization. In 2006, it pledged allegiance to Usamah Bin-Ladin and Ayman al-Zawahiri. In 2007, it turned into a representative of Al-Qa’idah organization. » Darif added: « Practically, we are before an organization whose actual core is made up of the elements of the Salafi Group for Call and Combat. This organization defined its goal as toppling the regime in Algeria. Within this group, a dispute emerged between two trends. The first wants to limit the battle to Algeria while the second wants to expand the conflict to benefit from the logistical support of the Salafis of the Arab Maghreb states. The second team has won. »

Darif said that the question now is not whether Al-Qa’idah exists or not in the Arab Maghreb states and the African coast countries, but concerns its size. He said: « I think that the question that should be as! ked concerning AQLIM is not whether it exists or not. Rather, it concerns its size and whether it presents a threat to the existing regimes in the Arab Maghreb states or not. Does the presence of Al-Qa’idah require this militarization by the US and the EU? Al-Qa’idah exists because its scattered operations are continuing, the last of which is the one yesterday, Thursday, 1 July, which claimed the lives of several Algerian security members. There are people who downplay the threat of Al-Qa’idah. However, no matter what the size of Al-Qa’idah organization, the talk about its expansion and that it managed to build camps in a number of African regions is exaggerated. The hardcore of Al-Qa’idah organization exists in Algeria. In view of the large area of Algeria, the security authorities are finding it difficult to face it. Of course, this does not belittle the capability of the Algerian security, especially after 11 September in America and its cooperation with the US Administration, specifically on the killing of Antar Zouabri. » The Moroccan researcher added: « The pressure of the Algerian security forces has made the elements of Al-Qa’idah escape and look for shelters in the countries of the southern Sahara. Everybody knows the story of Ammar Sayfi, nicknamed Abderezzak El Para, who was arrested by militias in Chad and handed over to Libya in 2004, which, in turn, handed him over to Algeria. But this presence is not evidence of the strength of the organization. It is a forced presence, and Al-Qa’idah benefited from « the existing tribal contradictions. Many cases of kidnapping of foreign nationals happened through tribal militias, which handed them over to Al-Qa’idah in return for huge amounts of money. » Darif said that rumours about AQLIM contain a lot of exaggerations for specific purposes. He said: « There is a big exaggeration in magnifying the size of Al-Qa’idah because its threats cannot change the balances of power in the Arab Maghreb states. We know that many influential sec! urity and political agencies in the Arab Maghreb states utilize the card of terrorism, represented by Al-Qa’idah, for their own purposes. We know that the Arab Maghreb states had seen a kind of political openness. They were forced to do this amid calls for democratizing the world. However, some security and political officials who control matters in the Arab Maghreb states did not relish democracy. Therefore, they employed the 11 September incidents in the United States and the scattered terrorist operations in a number of countries and raised a slogan that it is not possible to have political openness and to go far with democracy unless there is stability. Once there is stability, we can talk about human rights. He added: « The US Administration had been looking for a foothold in the African continent, which it had abandoned for many decades. But it returned to it after China strongly entered it. Thus, it utilized terrorism and the dangers of Al-Qa’idah. I think that it wishes to rebuild rationalized military bases in Africa. Therefore, when we talk about the threat of Al-Qa’idah, we cannot cancel the political utilization, which has a dual dimension. On the one hand, this is meant to legitimize the US presence in the region. On the other hand, it is linked to the wish of a team of Maghreb security and political officials not to have political openness, » as he put it.
Al Quds, 3/7/2010

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