US officials say that al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the North African affiliate of al-Qaeda based in Algeria is eager to launch attacks on Western targets across the region, saying they are “emboldened” after the January 16 hostage siege in eastern Algeria.
The officials said there were no specific plots yet, but rather that AQIM is planning in broad and “aspirational” terms to hit some sort of Western target somewhere. Not exactly the sort of comments that lend themselves to preparation.
US officials concede that their understanding of northwestern Africa is extremely limited, and that they don’t have anywhere near the massive footprint of CIA spies spanning the region that they do in Pakistan or Yemen.
Militants linked with the January 16 attack said it was a response to the French invasion of Mali, which began just days prior. With that invasion continuing in earnest, there seems to be no shortage of incentive for such groups to strike at Western targets.