Al Qaeda has reinstated its bloody glory in a fresh battle that has been hailed as ‘the Maghreb’s Battle of Badr’. And in the manner of all previous battles waged by al Qaeda, the scene in the aftermath was chilling: scattered dead bodies and charred remains after the blasts in Casablanca followed by the more ferocious bombing in Algeria that was executed via suicide operations that bore the seal of ‘al Qaeda network in the Islamic Maghreb’. And to complete the scene, al Qaeda uploaded video footage online of the alleged attackers in Algeria as they issued threats against the customary background, the Kalashnikov and the Quran, in the same abhorrent way that reproduced the format invented by al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden and his first deputy, Ayman al Zawahiri.
After declaring its union with the network, a move that was blessed by Bin Laden, Algeria’s Salafist Group for Da’wa and Jihad (Preaching and Combat) has become the acting nucleus of the al Qaeda network in North Africa. The videos that showed the culprits prove the aforementioned union ¬– however; the Salafist group is not a newcomer on the scene or a product of last week’s events. In fact, this group has gained extensive guerilla warfare experience and has played a terrible role during the civil violence years in Algeria back in the nineties.
However, the novelty lies in the group determination to employ state-of-the-art technology – especially the Internet and the media ¬– means that were not readily available in the nineties. Prior to last weeks bombings, the Salafist Group had carried out various operations through which it bolstered its media presence by taping the operations and posting the videos online, particularly the attacks that targeted Westerners and personnel who worked in the oil and gas industry in the desert. Later it posted the scenes of the clashes with security forces in Bijaya, which erupted last month.
But this exploitation of video technology for propaganda was not utilized by the group when it launched its mass killings in Algeria. Today it has begun to resume its activities making it clear that it intends to reinforce its combat and media presence through videos and online Islamic publicity.
French thinker Gilles Kepel holds that the Internet is the primary and underlying reason for al Qaeda’s success in the September 11 attacks. It is his view that had it not been for the Internet al Qaeda would not have existed, and is moreover of the opinion that the New York and Washington attacks are by-products of the Internet, which in turn has imposed a new form of mobilization.
We should not forget that even at the times when the al Qaeda’s field activity had subsided, the case was quite different when it came to publicity. Undoubtedly, the information boom has become a crucial weapon that allows radical Islamists to make their voices heard to attract many, especially when violence is justified and vindicated through slogans that appeal to the Islamic and Arab public awareness and which can be boiled down to: resisting the West and Israel, defeating the occupation and liberating Palestine. This is furthered by the fact that the Bush administration’s disastrous performance when it came to various issues established a strong claim and pretext for these trends.
It is frightening that al Qaeda may once again, through its exploitation of superhighway information, succeed in mobilizing and convincing many that violence and terrorism are noble political and religious actions. By doing so, it dismantles the killing and death character from these bombings and what remains is violence that is built on mobilization and myths.