Profiling al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)

This analysis is conducted as part of the Son of Media Safety & Security’s Project on War and Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs). Learn more here.

AQIM Looal-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)

The origins of the al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) begin with the formation of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) in the 1998. At the time the group was formed as an offshoot of another Islamic Algerian guerilla organization based on concerns that brutal killings of civilians were alienating Algerians from the movement’s purpose. The GSPC was designated as an FTO by the U.S. State Department on 27 March, 2002.

GSPC conducted its operations until a joint announcement with al-Qa’ida’s second in command, advertised the GSPC and AQ union on September 11, 2006. The following January GSPC rebranded itself as AQIM. Since then, however, despite its global name partnership and its anti-Western rhetoric, AQIM has remained a regionally focused terrorist group.

In 2007 the newly rebranded AQIM claimed responsibility for the bombings of both the UN headquarters in Algeria as well as the bombing of the Algerian Constitution Court.

Other AQIM activities have included:

  • 03/2002: U.S. State Department designates GSPC as FTO
  • 09/2006: AQ and GSPC partnership announced
  • 01/2007: GSPC rebranded as AQIM
  • 02/2008: U.S. State Department updates GSPC designation to reflect AQIM rebrand
  • 05/2009: Killing of British hostage after failed negotiation attempts for release
  • 06/2009: Killing of American missionary worker in Mauritania
  • 09/2010: Kidnapping of seven uranium mine workers in Niger
  • 2011: Vehicle born IED attacks in Nouakchott, Suicide bombing attacks against Algerian military and police, Assassination target of President Muhammad Abdel Aziz of Mauritania
  • 01/2012: AQIM plots targeting US and European ships in the Mediterranean Sea disrupted
  • 05/2012: Killing of German hostage in Nigeria during military raid
  • 12/2012: Killing of French engineer in Northern Nigeria

AQIM is believed to operate as smaller groups which come together to perform criminal, terrorism or trafficking activities. Such activities include guerilla raids, assassinations, suicide bombings as well as the kidnappings for ransom of aid workers, tourists and employees of multi-national corporations.

AQIM’s recruitment has suffered significantly as a result of indiscriminate attacks against civilians. While AQIM is not as active in its attacks against domestic targets as it once was, it continues to serve as a major hub for trafficking and financial terrorism. AQIM connections in the Sahel allow it to continue to traffic narcotics, cigarettes, vehicles, weapons and people. It is also believed that AQIM maintains connections and coordination with other regional groups such as Boko Haram, al-Shabab and AQAP. Although statements were made to suggest involvement of AQIM in the September 11, 2012 attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi, no unclassified evidence has been presented to support such claims.


  • Abdelmalek Droukdel (aka Abu Mus’ab Abd al-Wadoud or Abdelwadoud): Leader since formation, he is an Algerian born, trained engineer and explosives expert

Goals Overtly Declared

  • Ridding Western influence from North Africa
  • Overthrowing apostate African regimes and replacing them with governments created under Sharia

Membership (Estimated/Approximate)

  • Currently estimated to be less than 1000 is Algeria
  • Scattered forces across the Sahel
  • At its height, it was estimated to be 30,000 strong

Base of Operations

  • Northeastern Algeria
  • Northern Mali
  • Niger
  • Mauritania

Map of AQIM

Funding Sources

  • Kidnapping for ransom has historically been its major funding source
  • Trafficking of arms, vehicles, cigarettes and people
  • Serving as gateway of narcotics smuggling from South America to Europe
  • Donors from abroad

Marketing Vehicles

  • unknown

Also Knows As (AKA)

  • AQIM
  • al-Qa’ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb
  • Group for Call and Combat
  • GSPC
  • Le Groupe Salafiste Pour La Predication Et Le Combat
  • Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat