The return to the forefront of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is causing growing concern for Tunisian authorities, Reuters has reported.
The recent deaths of two high-ranking Algerian terrorists in Tunisia may indicate that AQIM is attempting to regroup in the country.
Bilel Kobi and Hamza Al-Nimr were killed by Tunisian security forces on the Tunisian-Algerian border last month, they had been tasked with gathering groups of Al-Qaeda fighters in Tunisia in order to form new cells.
According to Tunisian security sources, the resurgence of AQIM in North Africa is due to the weakening of Daesh in the region which has caused a spurt in popularity for AQIM and allowed the group to recover their fighters who have gone to Syria and Iraq and suffered losses.
“Al-Qaeda wants to invest in the recent decline of the Islamic State [Deash] to reorganise and is seeking to restructure itself in Algeria, Libya and Tunisia by appointing new local leaders in the field,” a security source told Reuters.
AQIM is mainly present in northern Mali and the surrounding Sahel but has been known to operate in the remote of Tunisia, north-west of Kasserine and in the mountains bordering Algeria.
Known in Tunisia under the name of Uqba ibn Nafa’, the Tunisian branch of AQIM is divided into four denominations with 20 fighters in each and made up mainly of Algerians.
Though the groups may not have the capabilities to orchestrate attacks, it is likely that several members could again try to return to Tunisia in light of the offensive conducted by the Algerian army in the last two weeks against the Algerian branch of AQIM. Due to the Algerian army’s elimination of fighters in Algeria the group faces too many obstacles to redeploy in Algeria but face fewer challenges in Tunisia.
The Algerian army deployed further efforts in the south of the country following rumours Daesh, head Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, was operating in the area.