Friday, September 24, 2004

Internal Struggles Within GSPC

Algerian newspaper Liberté runs a story about the Al Qaeda-linked Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, or GSPC by its French acronym, which according to their reporting is faced with internal struggles (link in French) over control of the organization.

Recently, the GSPC announced the appointment of Abou Mossab Abdelouadoud, or Abdelmalek Dourkdal as his real name is, as its new emir. After the death of GSPC leaders Hassan Hattab and Nabil Sahraoui and the capture of his second in command, Amari Saifi, alias Abderrazak el Para, by Chadian rebel group MDJT.

It now seems that Abou Mossab appointed himself in a power vacuum, and that some regional GSPC leaders or emirs refuse to pledge allegiance to him. Some local GSPC emirs have even given orders to their commanders to kill Mossab when encountered.

The operational structure of the GSPC is that of regional commanders or emirs, which 'control' an area of a few hundred square kilometers, each with no more than approximately one hundred men.

Liberté gives as main reasons for the infighting the intention of Mossab to open a second front with terrorist attacks in Mila province, where a local and dissenting GSPC emir would face the full brunt of the security forces response. This supposedly to take off pressure on GSPC strongholds in Boumerdès, where the GSPC has been put on the defense since the security forces' offensive which started in August. But it is widely seen as an attempt by Mossab to consolidate his leadership, at the expense of dissenters.

And finally money. According to Liberté, a lot of the internal struggle also has to do with how the spoils of the GSPC terror campaigns should be divided.

As for my own thoughts, this infighting could have been expected, and reminds me of the Israeli targeted killings of Hamas and other Palestinian terror organizations' leaders. By assuring that no new leader can take the reigns, the Israelis have provoked infighting among the Palestinian factions. The leadership crisis within the GSPC, with its strong regional command structure, shows similar signs now that its leaders are dead or captured. But it also means that the pressure is on the Algerian government now to ensure this crisis endures, which is difficult with limited military means and regional GSPC leaders which are harder to target.