In May 2009, Abu Abdullah Ahmed, leader of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb’s (AQIM) then newly-established "political committee" ("Comité Médiatique" in the French release), sat down for an interview with AQIM’s media wing, al-Andalus Media. The interview leads with a question on the foundation of the "political committee," but then moves into a discussion of the group’s experiences during its transition from GSPC to AQIM. It’s brief, and not very detailed, but it may also be one of the only first-hand insights into what it means to become al-Qaida.
[Please note: the formatting is mine; the translation is not. For a different translation, go here. For the video itself…go to http://www.youtube.com/user/aqsa988]
Question 2: Nowadays two years have passed since your organization joined Al-Qaida. What are your achievements during this period of time? What is your assessment of the development of the battle between you and your enemies internally and externally?
[Ahmed] "Yes two years or more have passed since the joining. These two years were a blessing to us. Praise be to God¨ the most significant achievement is that we took the battle from its domestic framework to its regional dimension and its international affiliation after the radical change of the international policy which is in the alliance of the war on Islam whichcannot be confronted through the domestic struggle. The organization has melted in the global jihad order. The Islamic Maghreb front has become the front of the comprehensive confrontations against the global Crusader alliance in the Islamic Maghreb. In addition to this great achievement¨ there are many other achievements. On the military level, we attacked the enemy on its own ground and crushed its arrogance. Every day, the lions of the lofty Atlantic are dealing to the enemy one crushing defeat after another.
"On the political level, the organization obtained the support of the ummah in the Islamic Maghreb. The vital evidence is that the young men from our neighboring countries are coming to the land of steadfastness and jihad in Algeria while the apostate regimes are suffering from a suffocating isolation among the public circles.
"Anyhow, the project is still in its very beginning and it needs the contribution of the sincere people of knowledge and experts to meet the ambitions of our loved ummah that is looking forward to recovering its leading role to save humanity from the corruption of the man-made methodologies and the greediness of the usurper capitalism which came to its end and led the world to the abyss.
Question 3: Recently, there are some people who cast doubt on the group's change from being a state group — Salafi Group — to a regional organization; the Al-Qa'ida in the Land of Islamic Maghreb. They said that it is just a formal change that does not exceed the change of the name. What is your response to these doubts?
[Ahmed] "Yes, actually we hear some people reiterating such false words which are refuted by reality and logic. The mujahidin perspective of the struggle now is different from theirs before. Their strategy which they carry out now after drafting it in the first meeting is not the same strategy practiced by the Salafi Group. Even the field tactical means, the objectives list, and priorities are not the same at all. Moreover, the leadership structure of the organization now is no longer the previous one since we introduced our immigrant brothers from the Islamic Maghreb countries into the Shura Council of the organization which was not the case 14 years ago. These are four important differences that can refute these doubting arguments. The fair observer of the jihadist march during the days of the Salafi Group and the phase of joining [Al-Qa'ida] till today realizes clearly that there is a radical change which is not denied but by a spiteful, stubborn, or ignorant person who was befooled by the enemies' delusions.
"Herein, there is a very important point that must be addressed; namely, the first ones to put forth these doubts were the apostates in Algeria. They are still insistent on confirming this claim through their official statements and through their media trumpets in some of the intelligence newspapers. Furthermore, we were informed by reliable sources that the apostates issued instructions to newspapers, forcing them to use the old name; the Salafi Group for Call and Combat, while covering the news of the mujahidin. "Many biased journalists implemented the desires of the apostates although this completely contradicts journalism. Otherwise, how come they give a jihad ist organization a name different from its official and announced name? This is only to please the Ministry of Interior. Is this not an abominable charlatanism and collusion to deceive public opinion?
"In fact, the apostates realize the scale of sympathy that the Islamic ummah have for the organization after joining Al-Qa'ida. They also realize how grave the organization of Al-Qa'ida in the Land of Islamic Maghreb with the current name and new strategy and, therefore, they are unsuccessfully trying to cast this doubt and continue to impose the old name upon the media as a desperate attempt to water down the dilemma that befell them out of a clear sky while they were unprepared for it.
Question 4: Does the policy of the Al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb fall in line with the general strategy of the mother organization, or is it independent?
[Ahmed] "O brother! Islam, with its grandeur, liberates the minds and the bodies, and jihad engenders creativity and inventiveness. Al-Qa'ida is a faculty of jihad and a source of inspiration. He who cannot assimilate these dimensions, cannot understand the methodology of Al-Qa'ida, which has become today, by the grace of God, like a good tree whose root is in the land of pride, Khorasan – Afghanistan – and whose branches reach the entirety of the land of Islam, to cast shadow everyday over more and more Muslims, and burn the infidels and the hypocrites, until it purges the whole lands of Islam, from Andalusia to China.
"Answering your question, I say: Since we are part of the Al-Qa'ida, it is normal that our policy is part of it, complements and supports it, and goes in line with it. All the mujahidin, in all places, espouse one policy and have cohesive stances, which are not conflicting, praise be to God. The secret is that they are founded on the same ground and derived from the same sources, namely [God's] Book and the Prophetic tradition, following the approach of the pious ancestors.
"Nevertheless, there could be a margin available for independency, when dealing with issues and specifics of a particular society or country, however, this should not be considered an evidence of disagreement with the general strategy and the overall guidelines of the mother organization.
Question 5: How do you explain the ever-increasing voices of some of the critics who insist that your organization goes up against the directions of the mother Al-Qa'ida organization, as it focuses on the internal enemy [Algerian forces]? Some of your antagonists even claim that Shaykh Usama Bin-Ladin, in person, is not pleased with your strategy?
[Ahmed] "Dear brother, this is mere falsehood and fabrication that fall under the heated campaign waged against us by some hireling writers. The notion of separating between the internal enemy and the foreign enemy, amid the international campaign against Islam, is unfounded. In theory, infidelity is one religion; but, on the practical level, the issue is subjected to other military and strategic factors, among others. The mujahidin in the Islamic Maghreb get the honor to fight both the internal and the foreign enemies, according to the specificity of their countries and their reality. As to our esteemed amir, the lion of Islam, Shaykh Usama Bin-Ladin, may God preserve him, we have the advantage of his backing and support, and we challenge any of those who claim that our Shaykh is not pleased with our policies, to give us a single word proving the verity of their claim."