Monday, April 30, 2012

Regional Impact: AQIM Threatens UK Not to Send Radical Cleric to Jordan

Over the weekend, al-Qaeda's North African franchise, known as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), threatened the UK earlier today (April 30) not to continue with its plan to deport radical cleric Abu Qatada, 51, AKA, Omar Mahmoud Mohammed Othman to Jordan. 

AQIM has threatened Britain with dire consequences for kidnapped Briton Stephen Malcolm who was abducted by AQIM in September 2010, along with eight other Europeans. AQIM has stated that it will free  Malcolm only if Abu Qatada is sent to an Arab Spring nation (i.e., Egypt, Tunisia, Libya or Yemen).

Malcolm is thought to be one of nine Europeans, including six French nationals, seized by AQIM in Mali and Niger since September 2010. Swedish and Dutch nationals are also included among the captives.

COMMENT: Despite AQIM's threat, the British government has said that it will stay the course and send the militant cleric to Jordan. Abu Qatada, a Jordanian citizen, has been described in both Spanish and British courts as a leading al-Qaeda figure in Europe and a threat to national security. He was first detained in Britain in 2002.

Nevertheless, given the legal complications and potential for a number of hostages to be harmed or killed, it is likely that a multilateral decision on where Abu Qatada will be sent could take months.