ALGERIA AND AL-QAEDA….Were the twin bombings in Algiers on Wednesday a sign that al-Qaeda has expanded its reach once again? Maybe, but George Joffe argues that in reality it was nothing more than the sporadic continuation of Algeria’s long-running civil war of the 1990s:

The group that was responsible for the bombing of the premier’s office last Wednesday, the Groupe Salafiste de Predication et du Combat (GSPC), which renamed itself al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb last September, had emerged out of the conflict in 1997 and has continued the fight ever since, with the same goals, in northern Algeria and in the Sahara.

….Even though it now claims the mantle of al-Qaida — something which Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaida’s number two, confirmed after the group’s second attempt to gain such an endorsement last September (the first was made in 2001) — its real agenda has not changed….its real target is still the government in Algiers.

….And where does al-Qaida fit into the picture? The suggestion that it acts as a transnational organisation directing violence in Algeria according to a centrally-conceived plan is simply untrue. Events there do not fit into the alleged global threat to western states accused of interfering in the Muslim world.

This is part and parcel of the “franchise” theory of al-Qaeda, namely that al-Qaeda has morphed from a centrally controlled transnational terrorist group into a broader, even more dangerous hydra-headed organization with satellites all over the world. But how true is this? If a longstanding nationalist insurgency/terrorist organization simply assumes the al-Qaeda name while continuing with its previous agenda, does this really mean “al-Qaeda” is any more dangerous before? Or are they actually less so?

Relabeling the GSPC may suit the propaganda desires of both al-Qaeda and the Western hawks who revel in the myth of ever-expanding jihad, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us have to believe it. The prosaic truth is that al-Qaeda most likely has very little to do with Algeria’s serious and longstanding internal problems.

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