Skip to main content

Australian National Security
You are here >> Skip breadcrumbAustralian National Security > > Terrorist organisations > > Al-Qa’ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)

 Al-Qa’ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)

(Also known as: Al Qaida au Maghreb Islamique; Al-Qa‘ida in the Islamic Maghreb; Al Qa‘ida Organisation in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb; AQIM; Le Groupe Salafiste Pour La Predication et Le Combat; Salafist Group for Call and Combat; Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat; Tanzim al-Qaida fi bilad al-Maghreb al-Islamiya)

This statement is based on publicly available information about al-Qa’ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). To the Australian Government’s knowledge, this information is accurate, reliable and has been corroborated by classified information.

Basis for listing a terrorist organisation

Division 102 of the Criminal Code provides that for an organisation to be listed as a terrorist organisation, the Minister for Home Affairs must be satisfied on reasonable grounds that the organisation:

  • is directly or indirectly engaged in, preparing, planning, or assisting in or fostering thedoing of a terrorist act; or
  • advocates the doing of a terrorist act.

For the purposes of listing a terrorist organisation under the Criminal Code, the doing of a terrorist act includes the doing of a specific terrorist act, the doing of more than one terrorist act and the doing of a terrorist act, even if a terrorist act does not occur.

Background to this listing

The Australian Government first proscribed the organisation under its former name, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (Le Groupe Salafiste Pour La Predication et Le Combat – GSPC), on 14 November 2002 and relisted under that name on 5 November 2004 and 3 November 2006.  The organisation was listed as al Qa’ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) on 9 August 2008 and relisted 22 July 2010,12 July 2013 and 28 June 2016.

Terrorist activity of the organisation

Objectives

AQIM’s objective is to create an Islamist state based on Islamic law. AQIM aspires to expand its influence throughout North and West Africa.

As the GSPC, the group’s main objective was to overthrow the Algerian Government and replace it with an Islamic government to rule Algeria under Islamic law.  This remains one of AQIM’s key aims.  However, following GSPC’s alliance with al Qa’ida in late 2006, and name change to AQIM in early 2007, the group has increasingly adhered to al-Qa’ida’s extremist ideology and has declared war against foreigners and foreign interests throughout North and West Africa.

AQIM has called for the freeing of the Maghreb countries of North Africa from Spanish and French influences and for the restoration of the lost Islamic regions of southern Spain, known as al-Andalus. AQIM has stated its support for Islamist extremist violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Chechnya and Palestine.

Directly or indirectly engaged in, preparing, planning, assisting in or fostering the doing of terrorist acts

AQIM has engaged in terrorist attacks and kidnappings against a wide range of targets in North and West Africa. Attacks either claimed by, or reliably attributed to, AQIM since it was last re-listed include:

  • On 9 July 2018, AQIM militants from the Uqba bin Nafi Battalion ambushed Tunisian police officers near Ghardimau in northwestern Tunisia, killing six people.
  • On 3 March 2018, AQIM attacked the French embassy and an army headquarters in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, killing 16 people.
  • On 18 January 2018, AQIM claimed an attack where a suicide-bomber from AQIM-linked group al-Murabitun attacked a camp housing Malian soldiers in the city of Gao, Mali, killing at least 50.
  • On 13 March 2016, AQIM conducted a joint armed attack with al-Murabitun at tourist hotels in Grand Bassam, Cote d’Ivoire, killing 19 people and wounding 33.

AQIM has a declared intent to undertake terrorist acts in North and West Africa. On 9 May 2018, AQIM announced via its official al-Andalus Foundation media channel threats of attacks against Western companies and interests in North and West Africa. This is a continuation of previous threats issued by AQIM, including the 2013 announcement by the leader of AQIM’s Sahara Branch, Yahya Abu al-Hammam, who stated that AQIM would engage in prolonged, mobile, guerrilla warfare against Malian, French and allied interests throughout the Sahel region.

Advocating the doing of terrorist acts

AQIM leaders have publically advocated terrorist attacks in order to further its objectives. Public statements in which AQIM has advocated terrorist attacks since it was last re-listed include:

  • On 31 July 2018, AQIM released a speech from the head of its Council of Dignitaries, Abu Obeida Yusuf al-‘Annabi, rallying Muslims in the Maghreb to fight against their respective governments.
  • On 8 May 2018, AQIM released a speech via the al-Andalus Foundation for Media Productions calling for its fighters to target Western companies and institutions in Africa

Details of the organisation

AQIM is an affiliate of al-Qaida and shares its core jihadist ideology, seeking to remove governments, through violent means if necessary, in Muslim countries that it deems are ‘un Islamic’ in order to establish an Islamic Caliphate. AQIM also espouses anti-Western ideals and has called on Muslims across North Africa to target Western interests. AQIM’s alliance with al-Qa‘ida in 2006 has proved to be largely ideological and AQIM appears to operate autonomously with limited contact and direction al-Qa‘ida senior leadership.

Since joining with al-Qa‘ida in 2006, AQIM follows al-Qa‘ida’s ideological tenets, and in 2014, AQIM reiterated its commitment and pledge of allegiance to the leader of al-Qa‘ida, Ayman al‑Zawahiri. However, AQIM also still maintains a significant degree of autonomy independent of al-Qa‘ida senior leadership.

Leadership

Since 2004, AQIM (known then as GSPC) has been led by Abdelmalek Droukdal (aka Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud). Although Droukdal reportedly commands AQIM’s battalions from Algeria, the battalions also enjoy some operational autonomy.

Since 2013, Yahya Abu al-Hammam (aka Jemal Oukacha) has been the leader of AQIM’s Sahara Branch which operates predominantly in northern Mali.

Membership

AQIM’s membership is estimated at several hundred.  AQIM members primarily originate from Algeria, Mali, Mauritania and other North and West African countries.

Since 2000, individuals believed to be GSPC/AQIM members have been arrested in France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Pakistan. Security forces have also dismantled AQIM cells in several other European countries.

Recruitment and funding

AQIM exploits the instability and local grievances across much of the Sahel to recruit members. The inability of governments to provide employment for an expanding youth population provides a fertile ground for recruitment. AQIM also recruits from communities in northern Mali through cooperation in transnational smuggling activities and intermarriage with local powerful families. AQIM continues to communicate with the wider extremist community through web-based propaganda and official statements issued through AQIM’s media wing, al-Andalus Media Productions.

AQIM funds itself primarily through criminal activities and the kidnapping of Westerners for ransom payments. Kidnapping operations in the Sahel/Sahara region of North Africa have been a key source of funding and have netted the group millions of Euros since February 2008. AQIM has also used kidnapping to obtain political concessions such as the release of Islamist prisoners. Other funding sources include extortion, taxing local populations, robbery, people and arms trafficking, money laundering and smuggling, and increasingly, the facilitation of drug trafficking from South America into Europe.

Links to other terrorist organisations

AQIM remains an affiliate of and ideologically aligned with al-Qa‘ida. However, AQIM maintains a largely autonomous command structure and determines its own targeting strategy.

The complex of al-Qa‘ida networks across North and West Africa is extensive and AQIM provides strategic leadership.

  • In December 2015, AQIM splinter group al-Murabitun announced it had rejoined AQIM but has continued to function as a distinct unit. The two groups have since cooperated closely, conducting several joint attacks. Both al-Murabitun and AQIM have variously attributed attacks to al-Murabitun, to AQIM, or to al-Murabitun as a battalion of AQIM. The Australian Government re-listed al-Murabitun as a terrorist organisation on 2 November 2017.
  • AQIM’s Sahara Branch has also cooperated in attacks with other regional AQIM aligned groups – namely al-Murabitun, Ansar al‑Din, and the Macina Liberation Front. In March 2017, these four groups formed an alliance under the name Jama’at Nusra al-Islam wal al-Muslimeen. (JNIM). AQIM’s Sahara Branch also continues its activities under this alliance.

Links to Australia

There are no known direct links between AQIM and Australia.

Threats to Australian interests

AQIM has not made statements specifically threatening Australians or Australian interests. However, AQIM has issued statements threatening Westerners and Western interests in general and through its JNIM membership has claimed attacks against French and US forces..

Listed by the United Nations or like-minded countries

The United Nations Security Council ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida Sanctions Committee (formerly the United Nations Security Council al-Qa’ida Sanctions Committee) has designated AQIM for targeted financial sanctions and an arms embargo since 6 October 2001.

AQIM has been listed as a terrorist organisation by Canada, the United States and New Zealand. The United Kingdom lists the group as the Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC).

Engagement in peace or mediation processes

AQIM did not participate in negotiations with the Malian Government over the Islamist occupation of northern Mali in 2012.

AQIM has not participated in peace talks with the Algerian Government.

Conclusion

On the basis of the above information, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation assesses AQIM continues to be directly and/or indirectly engaged in, preparing, planning, assisting in or fostering the doing of terrorist acts and advocates the doing of terrorist acts.

In the course of pursuing its objectives, AQIM is known to have engaged in acts that:

  • cause, or could cause, serious damage to property, or the death of persons, or endanger a person’s life or create a serious risk to a person’s safety;
  • are intended to have those effects;
  • are done with the intention of advancing AQIM’s political, religious or ideological causes;
  • are done with the intention of coercing or intimidating the government of a foreign country; and
  • are done with the intention of intimidating sections of the public globally.