Nouakchott — Recent defections indicate that al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is becoming more fragile due to the disintegration of its internal structure over the last few months.
Terrorism analyst Abdul Hamid al-Ansari explained to Magharebia that the breakdown of AQIM is not happening the way of other organisations.
"Since AQIM took so long to take its current shape, its disintegration will follow the same path," al-Ansari said. "This is in case things continue naturally, that is without being subject to a sweeping attack against its core. They are expected to become within the coming years and months, simply regular people, hunted deep in the desert."
Abdelkader Rouim, former emir of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), told El Khabar on December 16th, "About 100 gunmen in Mali and other areas are ready to give up their arms and return to their homelands, if they benefit from an amnesty without being prosecuted, or obtain serious assurances towards this goal."
Rouim was the right arm man of Mokhtar Belmokhtar, aka Laaouar, before he benefited from Algeria's provisions of the Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation.
"The acquitting recently by the court of Ouergla in Algeria of six members who repented after being active in the past in the Moulathamin Brigade led by the terrorist Laaouar, has encouraged many insurgents in northern Mali to explore the option of renouncing violence in order to take advantage of the provisions of national reconciliation," Rouim added.
He added that tens of gunmen in northern Mali, Niger and "some other areas deep in the Sahara, including some leaders of the Moulathamin Brigade have the necessary courage to dispense with arms permanently, as well as the desire to repent, but they are afraid of punishment."
He expressed the hope to see the process continue.
Besides the voluntarily disarmament of militants, killings and arrests are further weakening the terrorist group.
"In fact, we are learning every week that some terrorists were killed in clashes with Algerian troops, and have also learned about the dismantling of a sleeper cell in Morocco and the arrest of others in Mauritania, Mali and Niger," al-Ansari stated.
According to El Khabar, last month "the Joint Security Forces operating on the Algerian-Malian border managed to arrest six terrorists deep in the desert 30 kilometres from the area of Borj Badji Mokhtar. These arrests came after a military aircraft spotted their movements when entering Algerian territory in the vicinity of Mauritania and on their way to northern Mali."
Social analyst Mohamed Salem Ould Sharif further noted that AQIM "is linked to members more than to a specific idea".
"Once those individuals die or age, a lot of young people will renounce the ideology. Young people cannot live a life of austerity and in hiding in the depth of a barren desert for a long time," he said.
He added that most of those living deep in the desert are of a young age, and that a few have reached fifty, such as Abdelhamid Abu Zeid. Older members will eventually need care and younger ones a more normal life, prompting the return of many to the community.
Ould Sharif noted, "This is already starting to appear again in light of the talks about the Azawadis abandoning their embrace under international pressure."