Once leading Algerian group absorbed by Al Qaida front

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Algeria's Armed Islamic Group has virtually disappeared as an insurgency force.

After being the leading insurgency group in the 1990s, the GIA has been eclipsed by the splinter Salafist Brigade for Combat and Call. Most of the GIA insurgents joined the Salafists or Al Qaida.

The result is that GIA has lost its operational infrastructure. Western analysts said GIA has carried out few attacks in the Islamic insurgency campaign agains the Algerian regime, Middle East Newsline reported.

"Since the mid-1990s, the GIA's numbers have dwindled to an estimated 100 fighters," a report by the Washington Institute said. "GSPC, by contrast, has expanded to as many as 4,000 fighters due to both support from Al Qaida and its own stated opposition to 'shedding the blood of innocent people in massacres.' Despite breaking its word on this latter issue, GSPC has become the dominant Islamist force in Algeria."

As late as 1999, the GIA had nearly 2,000 insurgents. But 700 of them broke away to form the Salafist Brigade. Over the next five years, the brigade was said to have grown to 4,500 members.

The GIA was also hurt by another splinter group, Dhamat Houmet Daawa Salafia. The group broke away from GIA in the 1990s and has been led by Mohammed Benslim.

On Oct. 20, the United States classified Dhamat as a global terrorist group with links to Al Qaida. The department said Dhamat "is well organized and equipped with military materiel, and has engaged in terrorist activity in Algeria and internationally. It is responsible for numerous killings since the mid-1990s, and has escalated its attacks in recent years."

The demise of GIA was said to have been a major factor in the dwindling of insurgency attacks against civilian and military targets in Algeria.

Nearly 900 Algerians have been killed in the insurgency war in 2003, most of them from the Salafist Brigade.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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