al-Qaeda/GSPC Alliance Targets Europe
With Al Qaeda's "New" Ally, Tom Joscelyn delivers to the general public an excellent primer on the relationship between al-Qaeda and the Algerian terrorist group, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC). He makes clear that, while most may observe this a 'new' alliance as announced by Zawahiri recently, it most certainly is not.
In 1998 there was a falling out between the core of al Qaeda's leadership and some of the GIA's senior leaders, resulting from the GIAs murder of thousands of Algerian civilians--which in turn had alienated much of the country and jeopardized al Qaeda's chances for establishing an Islamist regime there.
In order to distance themselves from the GIA's unpopular tactics, bin Laden and Zawahiri selected a young GIA emir named Hassan Hattab to establish a new al Qaeda affiliate in Algeria. Thus, the GSPC was born.
Since then, the GSPC has been an especially active al Qaeda affiliate. Acting in concert with al Qaeda affiliates from Morocco and Tunisia, the GSPC's North African terror network provides al Qaeda easy access to the European mainland. In the last two years, several major GSPC plots have been uncovered on European soil, including a plot in Italy that may have aimed to kill as many as 10,000 people.
al-Qaeda support for and partnership with the GSPC and it's group of origin, the GIA, has been known for quite some time. The virulent anti-French nature of the GSPC indicates that al-Qaeda's recent announcement is less that of any new partnership than one of a new European focus. The French are rightly concerned.