December 11, 2007

Bombing in Algiers

The NYT is reporting that at least 45 people have been killed in car bombings in Algiers today:

Two car bombs exploded in close succession in the Algerian capital today, killing at least 45 people and wounding several others, according to Algerian officials. One official said it was the worst day of violence in the capital this decade. Thirty people died in a blast near the Constitutional Court building in Algiers, while another 15 were killed in a second explosion near a number of United Nations offices, a diplomat said, citing information released by the Algerian Civil Protection Agency. Ten United Nations employees were among those killed, the Associated Press reported.

Local official suspect the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), also known as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Jean-Louis Bruguière, who was France’s chief anti-terrorism judge until May, has long warned that the GSPC was turning into one of the most serious terrorist threats for Europe. Referring to the bombings today, he said in a telephone interview: “They carry the mark of the GSPC.”

He added: “Al Qaeda has succeeded in creating an advanced unit in a strategic region: North Africa is the door to Europe. The methods they are using are imported from Iraq.”

That, friends, is a fascinating assessment. As noted in the article, the GSPC became al Qaeda's appointed representative in North Africa in 2006. (Not surprisingly this catapulted them to the top of US terror watch lists; the Pan-Sahel Initiative is part of a US-led regional effort to limit GSPC influence south of the Sahara). But who recruited whom, here? Did GSPC seek AQ training and resources? Or is this an instance of AQ co-opting/recruiting a existing, locally focused terror group in support of a future European campaign? (Zawahiri declared France, not just Algeria, an enemy). Has that contact changed the group's goals? Area of operations? Recruiting base?

And what about the Iraq tactics? Charlie isn't enough of a car bomb connoisseur to know if these attack have Iraqi fingerprints or not. But if so, she's sure AM will want to know the process by which these tactics were transmitted to the GSPC (via enterprising group members? or by AQ elements?). She hopes he'll weigh in after recovering from his jet-lag. But knowledgeable readers can sound-off now in the comments.