The Two-Way
2:55 pm
Wed May 29, 2013

Algerian Terrorist Leader Clashed With His Bosses

Originally published on Wed May 29, 2013 3:08 pm

Algerian terrorist Mokhtar Belmokhtar was just not a team player.

As a top commander of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, Belmokhtar angered his bosses: He didn't return their calls, he didn't file his expense reports, he skipped important meetings and ignored their orders. And, he didn't carry out a single "spectacular operation" against the infidels.

That's according to a 10-page letter dated Oct. 3 that was discovered by Associated Press reporters in Timbuktu, Mali, inside a building that had been used by Belmokhtar's fighters. It was authenticated by three experts, the news agency says.

The letter was signed by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb's 14-member shura council, or governing body, and was apparently a response to one written by Belmokhtar to the council in which he makes clear his intent to sever ties and form his own organization:

"Your letter ... contained some amount of backbiting, name-calling and sneering," the shura writes to Belmokhtar. "We refrained from wading into this battle in the past out of a hope that the crooked could be straightened by the easiest and softest means. ... But the wound continued to bleed, and in fact increasingly bled, until your last letter arrived, ending any hope of stanching the wound and healing it."

At one point, according to the AP, the shura complains bitterly that Belmokhtar failed to buy weapons with the money it sent him.

Months after the letter, Belmokhtar did launch a "spectacular operation" with his newly formed outfit — in January, his gang took dozens of hostages at Algeria's Amenas gas facility, resulting in the deaths of 40 workers.

Rudolph Atallah, the former head of counterterrorism for Africa at the Pentagon, was one of the people who authenticated the letter for the AP. He says the operation in Algeria was "sending a message" to his former bosses.

"[He's saying] 'I'm a jihadi. I deserve to be separate from you.' And he's also sending a message to al-Qaida, saying, 'See, those bozos in the north are incompetent. You can talk to me directly.' And in these attacks, he drew a lot of attention to himself," Atallah tells the AP.

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