Dan's research into the personalities and organizations behind al-Qaeda and its allied Islamist organizations is impressive. You can see why he's a regular and valued host of our "Winds of War" feature.
Special Analysis: The GSPC, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, and the War on Terror
by Dan Darling of Regnum Crucis
Those who followed al-Qaeda's efforts to release chemical weapons in London, Paris (the ringleader of which has a brother at Guantanamo Bay) & Catalonia, and the ricin lab in north London may have noticed that the group's European network contains within it a disporportionate number of Algerian expatriates. For some strange reason, they are often referred to in BBC or wire service reports as "North Africans". Part of the reasoning behind al-Qaeda's liberal use of Algerians is simple demographics: Algerians have a large immigrant presence in many European countries, and thus the organization can build and maintain an infrastructure there without attracting undue attention.
The other, far more sinister reason has to do with...
The other, far more sinister reason has to do with al-Qaeda's increasing reliance on two of its most lethal affiliate organizations, the Armed Islamic Group (GIA, after its French acronym), which also assisted Ahmed Ressam during his early years before sending him on to Afghanistan for further training, and the Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC). As many articles have pointed out since 9/11, al-Qaeda is less of a tightly-centralized organization like the fictional SPECTRE or Cobra and more of a coalition of like-minded groups with local goals and aims that adheres to an international ideology.
In addition to their collusion with Zarqawi in the attempted chemical weapons attacks in Europe, the GSPC recently planned an attack against the US Embassy in Mali. The plot was ordered by one of GSPC leader Hassan Hattab's senior deputies, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who is currently living in Niger and was evidently important enough to receive a private message from bin Laden himself back in December. Belmokhtar's forces are also said to be behind the abduction of 32 European tourists, over a dozen of whom are still being held.
One way or another, both the GSPC (which may well have been involved in the recent attempted coup in Mauritania, as those foreign Islamists arrested there almost certainly match any description of the group) and Belmokhtar appear to be broadening their horizons in much the same way the Egyptian groups did during the early 1990s under bin Laden's aegis. The US should be prepared to counter this threat in some of the poorest and most neglected regions of the world to prevent the global terrorist network for gaining yet another base of operations.
N.B: Dan Darling's "Winds of War" roundup of the global War of Terror continues today at this link.