The GSPC: profile of an Islamic extremist group

15th September 2006, Comments 0 comments

ALGIERS, Sept 14, 2006 (AFP) - The GSPC Islamic extremist group, which on Thursday pledged its allegiance to Osama bin Laden and vowed to pursue jihad in Algeria, is said to have been founded on the instructions of the al-Qaeda leader.

ALGIERS, Sept 14, 2006 (AFP) - The GSPC Islamic extremist group, which on Thursday pledged its allegiance to Osama bin Laden and vowed to pursue jihad in Algeria, is said to have been founded on the instructions of the al-Qaeda leader.

The Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) has become the main extremist group in Algeria's Islamist rebellion, which has left some 150,000 people dead since 1992.

The GSPC's first leader split in 1998 from the Armed Islamic Group, or GIA, then the main Islamist group, to set up the GSPC, reportedly at the suggestion of bin Laden.

The two groups rejected an offer of amnesty put forward by the Algerian government in 1999 and have continued to wage their battle to establish an Islamic republic.

The GSPC, mainly active in the east, has been struggling to restore the image of the Islamists' holy war, or "jihad", tarnished by frequent massacres of civilians attributed to the GIA, which operates mainly in the west and to the south of the Mediterranean coastal capital Algiers.

Unlike its main rival, the GSPC — which is on the US government's list of terrorist organisations and is believed to have some 500 fighters — claims not to target civilians in the struggle against the "unholy" state headed by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Last October it officially announced a formal link with al-Qaeda for the first time.

It also singled out France as its "enemy number one" and issued a call for action against the country.

In spring last year, the GSPC kidnapped 32 Europeans trekking in Algeria's Sahara desert.

The hostages — 16 Germans, 10 Austrians, four Swiss, one Dutch and one Swedish national — were freed in two waves in May and August. One died from heatstroke while in captivity.

Salafism is a rigid Islamic movement based on a literal interpretation of the Koran.

"Salafs" translates as "pious ancestors", a reference to Mohammed and his disciples, on whom the Salafists model their way of life, down to the way they dress.

Wahhabism, the religious doctrine practised in Saudi Arabia, is a variant of Salafism.

The only major difference is that Salafists want a return to the caliphate system of a single ruler for the whole of the Muslim world, while Wahhabists accept local leaders.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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