Mr Marlboro burned: Al-Qaeda fires terrorist Moktar Belmoktar by letter

Al-Qaeda’s North African branch leaders handed marching orders to one of the most notorious terrorists, Moktar Belmoktar, aka Mr Marlboro. In a letter obtained by AP his bosses complained he never picked up the phone and failed to provide expense reports.

To be directly in touch with Al-Qaeda central, Mr Marlboro set up
his own terrorist group after quitting the Al-Qaeda branch. It
carried out two lethal operations which killed 101 people. One of
them, at a BP-operated gas plant in Algeria in January this year,
became one of the largest hostage-takings in history; the other,
simultaneous bombings at a military base and a French uranium
mine in Niger, took place last week. 

The 10-page letter, dated October 3, was discovered by AP inside
a building formerly occupied by Al-Qaeda fighters in Mali. 

Although in recent years there were multiple reports of Belmoktar
allegedly being expelled by Al-Qaeda, the letter found in
Timbuktu proves that he stayed loyal to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic
Maghreb until last year.

The letter, signed by the group’s 14-member Shura Council,
describes its relationship with Belmoktar as “a bleeding wound,”
slamming his decision to resign to establish his own
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.”

Al-Qaeda comes up with 30 complaints on Mr Marlboro

The Shura leaders came up with
30 complaints against their former employee, presented in
successive bullet points easy for the eye to go through. They
said that Belmoktar, known in Pentagon circles by his initials
MBM, had failed to carry out a single spectacular operation
despite the resources at his disposal.

“Abu Abbas is not willing
to follow anyone,”
they note, referring to him by his nom de
guerre, Khaled Abu Abbas. “He is only willing to be followed
and obeyed.”

Among Belmoktar’s wrongdoings,
according to his bosses, was the 2008 kidnapping of the
highest-ranking United Nations official in Niger, Canadian
diplomat Robert Fowler, and his colleague. Belmoktar held a pair
of hostages for four months. The letter revealed that the
operation was referred to Al-Qaeda central to force concessions
in the US-led war in Afghanistan, but the plan entered a deadlock
after Belmoktar struck his own deal for about $900,000 for both
men. The sum appeared to be far below the $3 million per hostage
that Western governments would normally be ready to pay in
ransom, according to global intelligence unit Stratfor, cited by
AP.

A picture taken from a video shown to an AFP correspondent on December 12, 2011 shows two Spaniards and an Italian kidnapped in Algeria in October and purportedly held by an Al-Qaeda splinter group. (AFP Photo / Serge Daniel)

“Rather than walking
alongside us in the plan we outlined, he managed the case as he
liked,”
the Al-Qaeda’s governing council members wrote in the
letter. “Here we must ask, who handled this important
abduction poorly? … Does it come from the unilateral behavior
along the lines of our brother Abu Abbas, which produced a
blatant inadequacy: Trading the weightiest case (Canadian
diplomats!!) for the most meager price (700,000
euro)!!”

It’s also the first time that
the letter confirms that payments from European governments went
directly toward buying arms to carry out attacks against Western
targets. The Al-Qaeda council criticizes Belmoktar for not
following such ‘common practice’.

“(The chapter) gave Abu
Abbas a considerable amount of money to buy military material,
despite its own great need for money at the time. … Abu Abbas
didn’t participate in stepping up to buy weapons,”
the letter
says. “So whose performance deserves to be called poor in this
case, I wonder?”

‘He drew a lot of attention to himself’

According to his online
biography, Belmoktar was born in northern Algeria and traveled to
Afghanistan at the age of 19. He trained in Al-Qaeda’s camps and
lost an eye in a battle.

The former head of
counterterrorism for Africa at the Pentagon and one of three
experts who authenticated the letter, Rudolph Atallah, told AP it
helped shed light on what happened in Algeria and Niger, the
attacks that Belmoktar claimed credit for on jihadist
forums.

“He’s sending a message
directly north to his former bosses in Algeria saying, ‘I’m a
jihadi. I deserve to be separate from you.’ And he’s also sending
a message to Al-Qaeda, saying, ‘See, those bozos in the north are
incompetent. You can talk to me directly.’ And in these attacks,
he drew a lot of attention to himself,”
Atallah said.

Among his other ‘crimes’,
according to the council, is that Belmoktar wouldn’t take their
phone calls and failure to send back financial reports. They are
angry he had ignored a meeting in Timbuktu, calling it “useless”
and ordered his men to refuse to meet with Al-Qaeda emissaries.
The Shura leaders claimed Belmoktar aired Al-Qaeda’s dirty linen
in public, in online jihadist forums.

A still image broadcast by Algeria's Ennahar TV on January 19, 2013 shows hostages surrendering to Islamist gunmen who overtook a gas facility in Tiguentourine near In Amenas in the south of the country. (AFP Photo / Ennahar TV)

The Shura leaders said he
didn’t get on well with his peers either, saying he recently went
to Libya without permission from the council. They mentioned the
last unit they sent Belmoktar for backup in the Sahara had spent
three years trying to contact him before giving up.

“Why do the successive
emirs of the region only have difficulties with you? You in
particular every time? Or are all of them wrong and brother
Khaled is right?”
they lamented.

Belmoktar: ‘Our works limited to routine of abductions’

Meanwhile, Belmoktar wasn’t
happy with his work for Al-Qaeda either. “Despite great
financial resources … our works were limited to the routine of
abductions, which the mujahideen got bored with,”
he
wrote.

He called Bin Laden and
al-Zawahri “the leaders of the Islamic nation, not the leaders
of an organization alone. We love them and we were convinced by
their program. … So it’s even more now that we are swords in
their hands.”

“Very lovely words. … Do
you consider it loyalty to them to revolt against their emirs and
threaten to tear apart the organization?”
AQIM
replied.

Together with the fighters
from ‘The Masked Brigade’, Belmoktar reportedly killed more than
a dozen soldiers at a military garrison in Mauritania in 2005 and
gunned down four French tourists there in 2007. On multiple
occasions Belmoktar was declared dead, including most recently in
March, and each time, he re-emerged to strike again.

The sharpest blow in the
council’s letter may have been the accusation that, despite this
history of terrorism, Belmoktar and his unit had not pulled off
any attack worthy of mention in the Sahara.

“Any observer of the armed
actions (carried out) in the Sahara will clearly notice the
failure of The Masked Brigade to carry out spectacular
operations, despite the region’s vast possibilities – there are
plenty of mujahideen, funding is available, weapons are
widespread and strategic targets are within reach,”
the
letter says. “Your brigade did not achieve a single
spectacular operation targeting the crusader
alliance.”

In December, Belmoktar
declared in a recorded message that he was finally leaving the
Al-Qaeda chapter to form his own group, entitled ‘Those Who Sign
in Blood’ after the name of an Algerian extremist unit that
hijacked an Air France flight in 1994 to fly the plane into the
Eiffel Tower in Paris.

This article originally appeared on: RT