Society

North African Al-Qaeda Leader Cut Loose, Forms His Own Terrorist Group

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht
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Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the North African Al-Qaeda leader, quit working with his terror group after officials complained he was difficult to work with, never answered his phone and failed to file expense reports.

As noted by the National Post, the 40-year-old Algerian lost his left eye while fighting Soviet forces in 1980s Afghanistan. He was twice convicted and sentenced to death in absentia by separate Algerian courts. Also known as Mr. Marlboro after he ran a massive Marlboro cigarette smuggling operation, Belmokhtar was behind the January hostage crisis at the BP-operated gas plant in Algeria. He took 800 people hostage at the In Amenas gas plant, one of the biggest hostage takings in history. At least 39 were killed.

He reportedly raked in millions through kidnappings, with many ransoms paid by private individuals. The U.S. State Department estimates he has collected $50 million in ransom money for Europeans he has kidnapped.

The Associated Press recently got hold of a letter from Al-Qaeda officials to Belmokhtar found in a formerly occupied building in Mali. Dated Oct 3, the 10-page letter, signed by Al-Qaeda’s 14-member Shura Council called the group’s relationship with Belmokhtar “a bleeding wound.”

The letter is a response to news that Belmokhtar broke off and started his on organization.

"Your letter ... contained some amount of backbiting, name-calling and sneering," they write. "We refrained from wading into this battle in the past out of a hope that the crooked could be straightened by the easiest and softest means ... But the wound continued to bleed, and in fact increasingly bled, until your last letter arrived, ending any hope of stanching the wound and healing it."

The letter mentions 30 complaints they received on Belmokhtar. "Abu Abbas is not willing to follow anyone," they note, referring to him by his alias “Khaled Abu Abbas.” 

"He is only willing to be followed and obeyed."

In a recorded message from December, Belmokhtar said he was finally leaving Al-Qaeda to form “The Who Sign in Blood.” He named his organization for an Algerian extremist group which hijacked Air France Flight 8969 leaving Algiers on Dec. 24, 1994. Their intention was to blow up the plane over the Eiffel Tower, but the plane did not have enough fuel to reach Paris. Hijackers were apprehended when the plane landed in Marseilles.

Sources: National Post, Telegraph