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The Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) are competing to be the dominant Salafi-jihadi group in Algeria. ISIS first gained a foothold in Algeria through the defection of small AQIM factions and pledges of support from groups previously associated with AQIM. ISIS Wilayat Jaza’ir, ISIS’s affiliate in Algeria, launched a campaign of ambushes and small explosive attacks targeting Algerian security forces in late 2015. It is recruiting by calling for the immediate overthrow of North African regimes. ISIS Wilayat Jaza’ir now operates in Skikda, Jijel, Constantine, Tipasa, Tizi Ouzou, Bejaia, Boumerdès, Bouira, Mèdèa, Blida, Chlef, Ain Defla, Tebessa, El Oued, and Illizi provinces. It will likely attempt to increase its operational tempo in Algeria and may also conduct a spectacular attack to rally Algerians to its cause.
ISIS’s expansion in northern Algeria threatens AQIM’s dominance in its historical base. AQIM continues to operate in a number of provinces, including: Batna, Tizi Ouzou, Jijel, Bejaia, Boumerdès, Bouira, Mèdèa, Blida, Chlef, Ain Defla, Tebessa, El Oued, Illizi, Adrar, and Tamanrasset. It is countering ISIS’s call with regular leadership statements that argue against ISIS’s strategy and attack the group’s legitimacy by elevating its own activities in Algeria. AQIM will sustain its attacks against Algerian security forces and will also continue to target foreign companies operating in the country. The March 2016 attack on a BP-Statoil facility sought to exploit popular discontent with foreign companies that drain Algerian resources and the regime that supports them. AQIM may increase the tempo of its attacks against Algerian security forces to compete with ISIS Wilayat Jaza’ir.
ISIS’s rise in Algeria, supported by its rapid ascendancy in neighboring Libya and Tunisia, is driving AQIM to re-orient on Algeria. The contest between ISIS and AQIM for dominance in Algeria will result in an increase in small-scale attacks against Algerian security forces, especially in the north. This contest is unlikely to destabilize the Algerian regime in the near term.
“Jund al Khilafa in Algeria Renews Pledge to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi,” SITE Intelligence Group, September 22, 2014, available by subscription through www.siteintelgroup.com
; “Former AQIM Division in Algeria Pledges Allegiance to IS Leader,” SITE Intelligence Group, July 7, 2015; “Fighters from ‘Al-Ansar Battalion’ in Algeria Pledge to IS in Audio,” SITE Intelligence Group, September 4, 2015; and “AQIM Division in Algeria Pledges Allegiance to IS Leader Baghdadi in Video,” SITE Intelligence Group, September 22, 2015.
“IS Claims Bombing on Algerian Forces in Constantine,” SITE Intelligence Group, December 1, 2015; and “IS Claims Second Bombing on Algerian Soldiers in Constantine,” SITE Intelligence Group, December 18, 2015.
“IS Claims Bombing on Algerian Forces in Constantine,” SITE Intelligence Group, December 1, 2015; “IS Claims Second Bombing on Algerian Soldiers in Constantine,” SITE Intelligence Group, December 18, 2015; “IS-Linked ‘Amaq News Reports Killing, Wounding of Algerian Soldiers in Skikda,” SITE Intelligence Group, January 29, 2016; “One Terrorist, Quantity of Ammunition Recovered in Medea,” Algeria Press Service, January 12, 2016, http://www.aps.dz/en/algeria/10281-one-terrorist,-quantity-of-ammunition-recovered-in-medea
; “Algeria releases a report finding that the 25 terrorists killed last month planned to establish an ISIS state in Algeria,” al Chourouk, June 8, 2015, http://www.alchourouk.com/113376/566/1/-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AC%D8%B2%D8%A7%D8%A6%D8%B1:_%D8%A5%D8%AD%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%B7_%D9%85%D8%AE%D8%B7%D8%B7_%D9%84%D9%80%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%B9%D8%B4_%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%AE%D8%AA%D8%B7%D8%A7%D9%81_%D8%B4%D8%AE%D8%B5%D9%8A%D8%A7%D8%AA_%D9%88%D9%85%D9%82%D8%A7%D9%8A%D8%B6%D8%AA%D9%87%D8%A7_%D8%A8%D8%A5%D8%B1%D9%87%D8%A7%D8%A8%D9%8A%D9%8A%D9%86_%D9%85%D8%B9%D8%AA%D9%82%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%86_%D9%81%D9%8A_%D8%AA%D9%88%D9%86%D8%B3_%D9%88%D9%84%D9%8A%D8%A8%D9%8A%D8%A7-.html
[Arabic]; Caleb Weiss, “Islamic State Claims Killing Algerian Soldiers,” Long War Journal, February 21, 2016, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/02/islamic-state-claims-killing-algerian-soldiers.php
; “IS’ Algeria Province Releases First Video, Participates in Media Campaign to Recruit in North Africa,” SITE Intelligence Group, January 20, 2016; and Gilad Shiloach, “ISIS Targets North Africa—And Rival Al-Qaeda—In Massive Media Blitz,” Vocativ, January 20, 2016, http://www.vocativ.com/273357/isis-targets-north-africa-and-rival-al-qaeda-in-massive-media-blitz/
“AQIM Official Calls Fighters to Deploy to Libya 'Between the Hands of Aggression... Beware,’” SITE Intelligence Group, January 14, 2016.
Caleb Weiss, “AQIM claims attack on Algerian gas plant,” Long War Journal, March 19, 2016, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/03/aqim-claims-attack-on-algerian-gas-plant.php
; Borzou Daragahi, “Environmental movement blocks fracking in Algeria’s remote south,” Financial Times, March 9, 2015, http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/db622d4c-c0f6-11e4-88ca-00144feab7de.html#axzz3TSYrTt9r
; and “Repression on the rise in Algeria as peaceful protesters face imprisonment,” Amnesty International, May 18, 2016, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/05/repression-on-the-rise-in-algeria-as-peaceful-protesters-face-imprisonment/
Emily Estelle, “ISIS’s Courses of Action: Out of Sirte,” AEI’s Critical Threats Project, April 29, 2016, http://www.criticalthreats.org/libya/estelle-isis-courses-of-action-out-of-sirte-april-29-2016
; and “Update and Assessment: May 4, 2016,” AEI’s Critical Threats Project, May 4, 2016, http://www.criticalthreats.org/threat-update/may-4-2016
, slide 9.