Skip to main content

From the Islamic State of Algeria to the Economic Caliphate of the Sahel: The Transformation of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb


Terrorism and Political ViolenceJournal abstract

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) appeared on the Algerian landscape in 2007 after the merger between Al Qaeda and the GSPC, with the objective of expanding its existing network in North Africa and the Sahel region. Pressure from security forces in Algeria propelled the group to seek refuge in Mali, where the 2012 conflict provided a safe haven for the group. Opération Serval, launched by the French military in 2013, dealt a severe setback to AQIM, as many of its fighters were killed and others dispersed to other parts of the region. From that period onwards, there has been a reduction in terror attacks and bombings until recently. Yet, an increase in kidnapping of foreigners for ransom coupled with drug trafficking signalled a transformation in the modus operandi of the group. To understand this trend, the article applies the crime-terror paradigm in order to assess the evolution of AQIM from a terror group with political and religious intentions into a group engaged in criminal activities with economic motivations. The article finds that AQIM is a hybrid entity that displays both terrorist and criminal motivations which are determined by the context within which the group finds itself.

You might also like: