AQIM: The North African Franchise

AQIM: The North African Franchise

Editor's Note: This article is one of three WPR features on the theme "The Al-Qaida We Don't Know."

WASHINGTON -- At 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 11, 2007, a suicide bomber blew the Moorish-style facade off the building that housed Algeria's Constitutional Council, which oversees the country's elections. Ten minutes later, elsewhere in Algiers, a truck containing 1,800 pounds of explosives and another suicide attacker leveled part of a United Nations building.

The blasts killed 42 people -- including 17 U.N. employees -- and injured 158 others. They were also the surest sign to date that al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), al-Qaida's North African franchise, is more than just a publicity stunt. Announced in 2006 by Osama bin Laden's second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the formal union between al-Qaida and what had previously been a ragtag domestic insurgency has resulted in a new front in the global war on terror, with the threat of more violence to come.

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