As a follow-up to my earlier posting on the kidnapping of two Spaniards and one Italian on Sunday (October 23), the three foreigners are reported to have been kidnapped by an al-Qaeda-linked "Sahrawi wing," according to AFP. There is also the possibility that the Europeans are being held by a man known as Hakim Ould Mohamed M'Barek, who was arrested in Bamako in 2008, and who has said that there was an al-Qaeda linked group operating inside of the Sahrawi refugee camps in Tindouf in western Algeria.
COMMENT: Spanish media has identified the Spanish hostages as Ainhoa Fernandez de Rincon and Enric Gonyalons, the latter of whom was believed to have been wounded during the kidnapping. The Italian foreign ministry identified the Italian as Rossella Urru, who works for the Italian Committee for the Development of Peoples (CISP).
Various sub-cells of al-Qaeda often work under the umbrella group known as al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The group is made up of some 500-800 militants who intend to overthrow the Algerian government and institute an Islamic state. To that end, it is currently engaged in an insurgent campaign throughout the African continent. The group has also expressed its intention to target the nationals and interests of Algeria, Spain, France and the US. It has been designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) by the U.S. Department of State, and similarly classed as a terrorist organization by the European Union.
AQIM has either claimed responsibility for the following operations or such attacks have been attributed to them:
March 2010: Italian national, Sergio Cicala, and his wife kidnapped;
March 2010: Three militants are killed by security forces near El Ma Labiod, 35 kilometers from Tebessa.
March 2010: Three militants are killed and another captured by security forces in Ait Yahia Moussa, 30 kilometers from Tizi Ouzou.
April 2010: At least ten militants are killed during a counter-terrorist operation in Bordj Bou Arreridj wilaya.
September 2010: AQIM is currently holding four French citizens who were kidnapped in northern Niger in September 2010.