The Washington Post has a short but still very interesting and informative article about al-Qaeda´s North African commander Amir Abu Zeid, the leader of the southern branch of „al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb“.
For the first time without a mask, Abu Zeid, an Algerian national, appeared in an image released by al-Qaeda on September 30th, showing French hostages kidnapped by the militant group in Niger. The militant leader, wearing a beige turban and a camouflage west, is seen sitting right next to one of the hostages and is the only Islamist fighter who appears without a face covering headscarf. As the WaPo correctly analyses, this can only be interpreted as a clear sign of strength and force.
In late July French and Mauritanian troops raided an al-Qaeda camp in Mali in a failed attempt to rescue French hostage Michel Germaneau, a 78 year-old engineer. Al-Qaeda reacted to the French military operation by executing the Germaneau on July 24th.
Now it seems the more hardline faction of the North African al-Qaeda, led by Abu Zeid, has gained strength with the kidnapping of five French nationals. Reports suggest al-Qaeda demands France to cancel the Burqa ban, the release of imprisoned militants and a ransom payment.
Read the Washington Post´s piece about al-Qaeda Sahara Prince here.