The bombings last week in Algiers, at a United Nations compound and the Algerian Supreme Court, have prompted news reports suggesting the group that claimed responsibility, Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), has “matured in its ability to conduct terror attacks that could destabilize the Algerian government.” The bombings killed at least 34 people, and some news reports put fatalities as high as 70.
Less noted in the news reports is the extent to which the war in Iraq has contributed to the resurgence of jihadist groups and activities in other parts of the world.
AQIM grew from an obscure faction known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, which was “adopted” by al-Qaida in September 2006. Since then it has grown in sophistication and financial support, building a Web site and carrying out small-scale attacks that received little publicity outside North Africa.
There also have been occasional stories about disaffected young jihadists traveling to Iraq from Algiers and Morocco to join forces with al-Qaida in Iraq to carry out terrorist attacks and guerrilla-style operations.
Terrorism experts have worried for some time that these fighters, after getting real-life training and experience in actual battle and bombing operations (more potentially valuable than the kind of training camps al-Qaida operated in Afghanistan prior to 9/11) would return to their home countries and begin wreaking havoc.
Preliminary investigations into the Algerian bombings suggest the perpetrators were Algerians — one of them a 64-year-old man dying from cancer who had been a jihadi activist since 1966 — who had been arrested before for terrorist activities but released.
So far there is no evidence they had traveled to Iraq, but authorities are still investigating whether people with experience in Iraq assisted in the operations.
Whether there’s a direct connection between these bombings and Iraq or not, there’s no question fanatics are being trained and “blooded” in Iraq every day, and many plan to return to their home countries.
That’s just another price people all over the world will be paying for years to come for the decision to invade and occupy Iraq.