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  #1  
Old 5 Dec 2009
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General speculation on Saharan kidnapping tactics

[Interesting topic but lifted from 'Mori post Nov 29' to avoid derailing]

... The Mauri army knew where they were but could do nothing besides allow AQ-M free passage (that in order to keep the prisoners alive). That, I understand, is the basis for the passage of the Austrians who were taken from Tunisia to N Mali via Libya/Algeria. Its the same off Somalia. A destroyer can stand-off from a 30 foot yacht filled with pirates + hostages and do absolutely nothing.

There are some interesting, open questions. Why no kidnappings in Algeria or Libya? Is Gadaffi an important link for the ransom payments and, in response, have AQ-M made a deal to stay clear? In Algeria, perhaps it is the guides, who sign their live's and the lives of of their families away to look after their clients. But why exactly do AQ-M care about the guide and the guide's family? I don't understand that part.



If there hasn't been any kidnappings in Libya I would think it is because nobody wants to mess with Qadaffi. And in Algeria, there are too many gendarmes. Niger and Mali is much easier.

I would broadly agree with this (blue) response to the question.

On the other hand I'm doubtful the 2008 Austrians were allowed free passage by the army etc across Alg to north Mali (more likely than via Lib & Niger IMO) in a "we'd like to do something but we dare not" kind of way (like the navy ship in the Indian Ocean). The Alg army has suffered enough at the hands of the GSPC/AQIM.
For the same reason assuming the Mori army did actually catch up with them earlier in the week and not have a go, it would not be for wanting to try. More likely on instructions from Spanish diplomats. [Added 6/12: it seems they did catch up as reported but dared not/were told not to make a move]

IMO the Austrian transit of Algeria in 2008 was either with collusion or "turning a blind eye/get them out of here quick, we don't want to be involved" not a powerless acceptance. The former (collusion) is thought to be the origin of 2003 anyway (as Ulrich has noted) and the latter is my theory on how 2003-Group 1 got to end up in north Mali.

In Algeria, perhaps it is the guides, who sign their live's and the lives of of their families away to look after their clients. But why exactly do AQ-M care about the guide and the guide's family?

As I suggest elsewhere, I think that may be a red herring. By their actions AQIM prove they don't give a toss about a ruining a desert tourist guide's livelihood, that is for sure. It's just become a new 'Yemeni-style' business, no matter how much AQIM dress it up with ideology.

Ch

Last edited by Chris Scott; 6 Dec 2009 at 10:08.
  #2  
Old 5 Dec 2009
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A fascinating thread! If the reason is purely financial then i wonder if these N African groups are actually A-Q, as i fear the group proper are hardly strapped for cash (considering their funding heartland)... just a thought.
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Old 5 Dec 2009
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Originally Posted by priffe View Post
What is written in the fine print when signing with say Tanezrouft?
And what could they do if beards with Kalashnikovs showed up?
This is the intriguing thing and something I have puzzled over. If the guys with the beards showed up with intent for business, there is absolutely nothing that anyone would be able to do. The beards are in charge immediately. But the fact seems to be that the guys with the beards do not show up in Algeria when one is accompanied by Algerian guides. Why? One set of possibilities (and this was behind my initial comment) is:
1) the guides sign up responsibility for the tourists (this is a fact)
2) the authorities make it clear to the guides that the guides have this responsibility and that there are consequences if things go wrong (this is quoted as being the case by some who have acted as guides). I don't know any more details about this.
3) this is the big jump in logic + without any evidence - the bearded ones may not want to put the guides in a position where consequences are imposed on them - so they don't take from guided parties in Algeria.

Why is (3) true? Only because it seems to be the case that it is true. To uncover the background to this claim is to get into the heart of the AQ-M relationship with local people. AQ-M are raging the state and the west but not the locals. From where I am sitting they seem to have strict codes by which they work. The lack of action in the desert in Algeria may be an indication of these codes at work. One kidnapping of a guided party in DZ is all that it takes to wash away point (3). I'm not meaning to tempt fate.....
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Old 6 Dec 2009
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I would be more inclined to think that MBM and Aqim are staying south of the Algerian border by some kind of agreement with an entity that could be the military.
But I think the actual reason is that it is better for business to stay in Mali and Niger.
If they wanted to, they could easily abduct tourists around Tam or Djanet today. Or blow up a pipeline. Easy. But they don't.

The agreement between guides/agencies and government/military is meant to keep check on tourists moving around. It is not the law.
What the guide says about responsibility is solely to motivate his salary.

When you ask, you never get full answers. They only know a few things from their limited perspective, be they guides, gendarmes, politicians. Those few who know do not speak.
There are probably some high level ops who know the full story but they never tell.
And so Algeria is a great mystery. Has been for decades. Perhaps always was.
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Old 6 Dec 2009
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Originally Posted by priffe View Post
The agreement between guides/agencies and government/military is meant to keep check on tourists moving around. It is not the law.
What the guide says about responsibility is solely to motivate his salary.
.
Our guide (who was not a real guide but a friend), didn't have any salary, he did it for free, so he had nothing to motivate


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Originally Posted by priffe View Post
When you ask, you never get full answers. They only know a few things from their limited perspective, be they guides, gendarmes, politicians. Those few who know do not speak.
And so Algeria is a great mystery. Has been for decades. Perhaps always was.
I agree
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Old 6 Dec 2009
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Let's not forget that if there is indeed some kind of agreement in the desert, as suggested, up north it's business as usual, with locals as always, very much a target:

... Algerian terrorist groups have stepped up their kidnapping attempts in recent months, mainly in Kabylie and the wilaya of Tizi Ouzou. Victims usually hail from wealthy families that can afford to pay steep ransoms. The most recent hostage situation occurred on October 30th, when members of al-Qaeda's El Ansar brigade kidnapped a business owner from his workplace in Tigzirt, Tizi Ouzou province.

(From Maghrebia archives, Nov 9)

Around that time a few weeks ago there were also attacks/bombs as far south as Ghardaia wilaya - but also pro-active army ops against AQIM convoys further west in El Bayadh wilaya and the GE Occ.

If AQIM kill and mutilate less locals than they used to do in the GSPC days (and yes, some of these were army-dressed-up-as... ops), it's only because they finally realised it was bad for their image and also because lately they've erred towards general purpose extortion and other profitable crime.

Ch
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Old 6 Dec 2009
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Not just cash

I reckon the AQ-M motivation is more than money. Money from kidnaping partly finances what they do. But if you look at the targets for the kidnapping (NGO-aid intervention in the Mauri event, Canadian Diplomats bound up in the Niger peace process, westerners attending the desert concert), the message is that they go to some trouble to locate specific targets and the common element in the list of those targeted is that they were seeking to engage with or influence the Saharan region. Tourists on a desert trip have, since 2003, been the minority amongst those taken. Additionally, the net is spread very wide - Mauri-Tunisia-Niger-Mali. Seems to me they are seeking to limit western influence on the Sahara region, seeking to control the as much of the Sahara as possible and doing so in a way that also finances their mission. If their mission was just money, I can't see they'd go all the way to Tunisia and all the way to Mauri (with their HQ in N.Mali). Assuming the Mauri hit was AQ-M and that they're on the crossing to N.Mali now, then that is quite some undertaking. Its only been done twice by westerners in the last 4 decades - Chris the more recent of the two. Its would be hard to explain that bold hit purely on a cash basis.
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Old 6 Dec 2009
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Meant also to add - will be interesting to see the fate of the oil enterprise following the exploration in the Toudenni basin in N Mali.
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Old 6 Dec 2009
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It would be hard to explain that bold hit purely on a cash basis

Yes, didnt mean to imply that, that would make them regular crims. It was more to remind that Alg locals are getting it too and in N Mali they - or bandits associated with AQIM activities - will rob locals on general opportunistic principles as someone mentioned (and as I encountered myself in 2006).

Last I heard AQIM also want to smash the [Algerian] state which most mafias dont bother with (or the state is the mafia).

Taoudenni - yes right in the thick of it and a Sonatrach (DZ) operation too. There may be tunnels.

Ch
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Simple thugs

I think one should see them as simpleminded thugs. Only difference is that in order to aid recruiting more "warriors" they need to target westerners, giving them a thin disguise as jihadists.
Look at all the rebel movements of the past. Once the rebellion is over, the hardcore ideologists usually come out as regular criminals, enjoying the glory of blowing innocent people to pieces, smuggling drugs, kidnapping, bank robberies....think IRA, FARC, ETA....
Tunnels?
Did they strike oil yet anywhere in Mali?
Yes, the state is always the mafia (extortion, abuse of power...).

Last edited by priffe; 6 Dec 2009 at 17:31. Reason: added ETA
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Old 6 Dec 2009
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I think one should see them as simpleminded thugs.
Its always interesting to get the range of perspectives. I see them somewhat differently. To me, they come across as principled, strategic, committed, careful, patient, daring and resourceful. Its just that their world is orthogonal to most of ours. That said, I'd prefer it if they hadn't adopted the Sahara!
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Old 6 Dec 2009
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They may be pretty good at what they're doing, but kidnapping unarmed civilians in the desert isn't rocket science. Nor is ambushing Malian soldiers. Or shooting a teacher on a Nouakchott street. Planting roadside explosives. Brainwashing young suicide bombers. Etc.

100% opportunistic thugs.
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Totally disagree priffe. Ok so you dont have to be specially trained to point a gun at someone and lead them away, but you have to have balls. Planting explosives requires technical competance. The last think you want to do is underestimate an enemy combatant when he/she is prepared to die for their cause. To be opportunistic requires adaptability, and the first thing they teach you as a combat soldier is to adapt to your enemy.
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Totally disagree priffe. Ok so you dont have to be specially trained to point a gun at someone and lead them away, but you have to have balls. Planting explosives requires technical competance. The last think you want to do is underestimate an enemy combatant when he/she is prepared to die for their cause. To be opportunistic requires adaptability, and the first thing they teach you as a combat soldier is to adapt to your enemy.
So they're pretty good at what they do.
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Old 6 Dec 2009
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Tactical/logistical considerations

Thanks Chris for establishing a cooler climate (thread) where we can openly discuss our intuitions and share our experiences regarding tactics, logistics and the who responsible for ongoing crimes in the Sahara region.

Granted, my "on the road" African experience is limited to 3 weeks travel in Morocco, but I have 17 years in Mexico, Central and South America where, kidnapping is also problem, even for a few motorcycle adventurists.

I have all my chips on the table betting that the tactics employed regarding the 3 Spanish "volunteers who went missing off Maui's main road, were well planned, perhaps with local/inside assistance as opposed to an opportunistic strike. Here is why.

1. According to international press releases, those who went missing were described as more than "cooperantes" Spanish term used to describe the volunteers who help distribute relief via convoy etc. Who they are and who/what they represent is readily available in past press releases.

2. Apparently, arguably, the 3 "highest rank" "cooperantes" were trailing the convoy, a logic defying order of march.

Therefore, I also bet the tactics included the targeting of these specific people, and logistics that included a hand off/selling of the hostages to a third party.

Logistically, I still hold with the idea of some earthen, underground, cave, mine etc is being/was utilized. I agree with those who forward the idea of the "human shield" tactic as a strong possibility, but also hold that the plan was not to transport, via land, to Mali, but by much swifter transport to another location in Mauritania and then out of the West African region.

Eat, Drink and Be Careful xfiltrate

EDIT: Chris, I rode out 150 K (very wet) to welcome my friend Jeff Condon, and the Globebusters Saturday 05dec, they have arrived safely Buenos Aires. Kev and Julia were pleased with the tour.

Last edited by xfiltrate; 7 Dec 2009 at 04:53.
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