Salafist leader ousted in Algeria

Monday, October 13, 2003

CAIRO Algeria's leading insurgency group has dismissed its chief.

The London-based Al Hayat daily reported on Sunday that the Salafist Brigade for Combat and Call has dismissed its leader, Hassan Hatab. The newspaper said Hatab was fired as Salafist chief in a leadership meeting in August.

The Salafist leadership appointed Nabil Sahwari as the new chief during its meeting at the end of August. Sahwari, 34, is also known as Abu Ibrahim Mustafa and hails from the Batna province about 400 kilometers east of Algiers.

Sahwari was the commander of the 5th district under the Armed Islamic Group before the split that led to the emergence of the Salafists. A year later, Sahwari was replaced as commander by Abdul Razik Al Bara.

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A Salafist statement announced that Hatab resigned. But Algerian military sources said Hatab was dismissed in a feud with Al Bara. Al Bara was said to have masterminded the abduction of 32 European tourists in the Sahara Desert in February and is believed to be in northern Mali.

This was the second time that Hatab has been dismissed from the Salafist leadership since its inception in 1998, after the Salafist Brigade separated from the Armed Islamic Group. The first time Hatab was toppled from leadership was in 1999, when Abdul Majid Dishu, known as Abu Musab, replaced Hatab.

Hatab was returned to leadership after Abu Musab was killed several months later in a feud between Salafist elements. His assassin was never identified.

The leadership also transferred at least one senior Salafist commander. No further details were reported.

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