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From Resilience to Fragmentation: Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Jihadist Group Modularity


Terrorism and Political ViolenceJournal abstract

During the last decade, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) managed to survive despite suffering four major fragmentations. Through the case study of AQIM, the goal of this paper is to contribute theoretically and empirically to the literature on terrorism by explaining the fragmentation of resilient jihadist groups. Two causes of fragmentation are identified: the “preference divergence,” in reference to the works of Shapiro, and the structural organization of power. Furthermore, two notions are presented to refine the theoretical tools of the literature on terrorism: a) the meta-strategy of survival, and b) centralized and deconcentrated power. To explore the group’s history and demonstrate the modularity of AQIM, a triangulation of primary sources, such as internal documents and key interviews, along with the monitoring of the regional press, is utilized. The author concludes this paper by suggesting new avenues for studying the evolution of jihadist groups.

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