The Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) are competing to be the dominant Salafi-jihadi group in Algeria. ISIS first gained a foothold in Algeria through the defection of small AQIM factions and pledges of support from groups previously associated with AQIM. ISIS Wilayat Jaza’ir, ISIS’s affiliate in Algeria, launched a campaign of ambushes and small explosive attacks targeting Algerian security forces in late 2015. It is recruiting by calling for the immediate overthrow of North African regimes. ISIS Wilayat Jaza’ir now operates in Skikda, Jijel, Constantine, Tipasa, Tizi Ouzou, Bejaia, Boumerdès, Bouira, Mèdèa, Blida, Chlef, Ain Defla, Tebessa, El Oued, and Illizi provinces. It will likely attempt to increase its operational tempo in Algeria and may also conduct a spectacular attack to rally Algerians to its cause.
ISIS’s expansion in northern Algeria threatens AQIM’s dominance in its historical base. AQIM continues to operate in a number of provinces, including: Batna, Tizi Ouzou, Jijel, Bejaia, Boumerdès, Bouira, Mèdèa, Blida, Chlef, Ain Defla, Tebessa, El Oued, Illizi, Adrar, and Tamanrasset. It is countering ISIS’s call with regular leadership statements that argue against ISIS’s strategy and attack the group’s legitimacy by elevating its own activities in Algeria. AQIM will sustain its attacks against Algerian security forces and will also continue to target foreign companies operating in the country. The March 2016 attack on a BP-Statoil facility sought to exploit popular discontent with foreign companies that drain Algerian resources and the regime that supports them. AQIM may increase the tempo of its attacks against Algerian security forces to compete with ISIS Wilayat Jaza’ir.
ISIS’s rise in Algeria, supported by its rapid ascendancy in neighboring Libya and Tunisia, is driving AQIM to re-orient on Algeria. The contest between ISIS and AQIM for dominance in Algeria will result in an increase in small-scale attacks against Algerian security forces, especially in the north. This contest is unlikely to destabilize the Algerian regime in the near term.
Original post appears here: http://www.criticalthreats.org/al-qaeda/estelle-synder-aqim-isis-algeria-competing-campaigns-june-2-2016