Abdelmalek Droukdel

Algerian national Abdelmalek Droukdel, nom de guerre Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud, was the emir (leader) of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). According to the U.S. Treasury, Droukdel encouraged other jihadist groups to join al-Qaeda.“Treasury Designates AQIM Emir,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, December 4, 2007, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/hp708.aspx. He was trained in building explosives and is believed to have introduced suicide bombings to Algeria.“Algeria al-Qaeda chief Droukdel sentenced in absentia,” BBC News, March 13, 2012, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-17359310.> Droukdel reportedly named his mentor as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al-Qaeda in Iraq leader who was killed by a U.S. airstrike in 2006.Boubker Belkadi, “Ruthless chief, head of Al-Qaeda's NAfrica branch,” Middle East Online, December 13, 2007, http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=23510. The U.N. Security Council and the U.S. Treasury designated Droukdel as a terrorist in 2007."QI.D.232.07. ABDELMALEK DROUKDEL," United Nations Security Council, accessed Mary 4, 2015, http://www.un.org/sc/committees/1267/NSQDi232E.shtml; “Executive Order 13224 blocking Terrorist Property and a summary of the Terrorism Sanctions Regulations,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, accessed March 5, 2015, http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/terror.pdf. French soldiers killed Droukdel in Mali in June 2020.Agence France-Presse, “French troops kill Al-Qaeda’s North Africa chief Abdelmalek Droukdel,” Telangana Today, June 6, 2020, https://telanganatoday.com/french-troops-kill-al-qaedas-north-africa-chief-abdelmalek-droukdel.

Between 1989 and 1993, Droukdel studied mathematics at the University of Blida in Algeria.“Northern Africa’s Most Wanted,” Counter Terror Business, accessed October 3, 2018, http://www.counterterrorbusiness.com/node/12624. In 1993, he began working with the Movement of the Islamic State (MEI), and then rose through the ranks of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) and the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC).“Movement of the Islamic State (MEI),” Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium, accessed October 4, 2018, https://www.trackingterrorism.org/group/movement-islamic-state-mei; “QDi 232. ABDELMALEK DROUKDEL,” United Nations Security Council, accessed October 3, 2018, https://www.un.org/sc/suborg/en/sanctions/1267/aq_sanctions_list/summaries/individual/abdelmalek-droukdel; AQAP, “Train Derail Operations,” Inspire, July 2017, https://azelin.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/inspire-magazine-17.pdf He assumed leadership of the GSPC in June 2004 and initiated the merger with al-Qaeda in 2006 to form AQIM. Droukdel served as emir of AQIM since then until his death in June 2020.“QDi 232. ABDELMALEK DROUKDEL,” United Nations Security Council, accessed October 3, 2018, https://www.un.org/sc/suborg/en/sanctions/1267/aq_sanctions_list/summaries/individual/abdelmalek-droukdel; Agence France-Presse, “French troops kill Al-Qaeda’s North Africa chief Abdelmalek Droukdel,” Telangana Today, June 6, 2020, https://telanganatoday.com/french-troops-kill-al-qaedas-north-africa-chief-abdelmalek-droukdel.

Droukdel had been described as tough and strong-minded, and reportedly subscribed to a mix of political Islam and Arab nationalism. He had also been characterized as charismatic with excellent public speaking abilities.Abdel Bari Atwan, The Secret History of Al Qaeda, (University of California Press, 2008), 235-240. Depicted as ruthless and ambitious, Droukdel had purportedly eliminated members in AQIM’s ranks who diverted from his instructions or ideological positions.“Northern Africa’s Most Wanted,” Counter Terror Business, accessed October 3, 2018, http://www.counterterrorbusiness.com/node/12624. Unlike other al-Qaeda leaders, Droukdel did not trained in al-Qaeda camps in Yemen or Afghanistan, nor did he receive education in foreign madrassas (religious schools).Abdel Bari Atwan, The Secret History of Al Qaeda, (University of California Press, 2008), 235-240.

Nonetheless, Droukdel developed advanced skills in manufacturing explosives and electrical devices.AQAP, “Train Derail Operations,” Inspire, July 2017, https://azelin.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/inspire-magazine-17.pdf. In 2007, Droukdel established a unit that specialized in suicide bombings and introduced the tactic in Algeria.Boubker Belkadi, “Ruthless chief, head of Al-Qaeda's NAfrica branch,” Middle East Online, December 13, 2007, https://web.archive.org/web/20171224214326/http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=23510; “Northern Africa’s Most Wanted,” Counter Terror Business, accessed October 3, 2018, http://www.counterterrorbusiness.com/node/12624.

Droukdel organized dozens of bombings across Algeria against both security and civilian targets, including the April 11, 2007, bombing of government offices in Algiers that claimed 33 lives and the December 11, 2007, attack on the United Nations office in Algiers that killed at least 26 people including 11 U.N. personnel.“QDi 232. ABDELMALEK DROUKDEL,” United Nations Security Council, accessed October 3, 2018, https://www.un.org/sc/suborg/en/sanctions/1267/aq_sanctions_list/summaries/individual/abdelmalek-droukdel; “11 UN workers among 26 killed in Algeria blasts,” CBC News, December 11, 2007, http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/11-un-workers-among-26-killed-in-algeria-blasts-1.636919. The April 2007 attack was the first suicide bombing in Algeria’s history.“Algeria Al-Qaeda Chief Droukdel Sentenced in Absentia,” BBC News, March 13, 2012, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-17359310. According to Algerian terrorism expert Faycal Oukaci, “Droukdel’s strategy involves two main points: attacks with explosives and a large amount of media attention on suicide attacks.”Boubker Belkadi, “Ruthless chief, head of Al-Qaeda's NAfrica branch,” Middle East Online, December 13, 2007, https://web.archive.org/web/20171224214326/http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=23510.

In March 27, 2007, the tribunal of Tizi-Ouzu in northern Algeria sentenced Droukdel to life imprisonment in absentia for his involvement in terrorist activities.“QDi 232. ABDELMALEK DROUKDEL,” United Nations Security Council, accessed October 3, 2018, https://www.un.org/sc/suborg/en/sanctions/1267/aq_sanctions_list/summaries/individual/abdelmalek-droukdel. A court in Algiers sentenced Droukdel to death in absentia five years later for premeditated murder, membership in a terrorist group, and attacks using explosives.“Death sentence in absentia for al Qaeda North Africa chief,” TimesLIVE, March 13, 2012, https://www.timeslive.co.za/news/africa/2012-03-13-death-sentence-in-absentia-for-al-qaeda-north-africa-chief/.

Beginning in October 2011, Droukdel provided military, financial, and logistical support to Ansar Dine—a Malian Islamic militant group—to increase AQIM’s territorial influence in northern Mali.“QDi 232. ABDELMALEK DROUKDEL,” United Nations Security Council, accessed October 3, 2018, https://www.un.org/sc/suborg/en/sanctions/1267/aq_sanctions_list/summaries/individual/abdelmalek-droukdel; Stanford University, “Mapping Militant Organizations – Ansar Dine,”, August 8, 2016, http://web.stanford.edu/group/mappingmilitants/cgi-bin/groups/view/437. Under Droukdel’s leadership, AQIM formed an alliance with Ansar Dine and MUJAO (Mouvement pour l’Unification et le Jihad en Afrique de l’Ouest) in November 2015 to fight against the French and Malian militaries.“QDi 232. ABDELMALEK DROUKDEL,” United Nations Security Council, accessed October 3, 2018, https://www.un.org/sc/suborg/en/sanctions/1267/aq_sanctions_list/summaries/individual/abdelmalek-droukdel.

In October 2016, Algerian newspaper L’Expression reported that Algerian security services confirmed that Droukdel had managed to infiltrate Tunisia, with the substantial assistance of anonymous facilitators and financiers. Prior to his reported escape to Tunisia, Droukdel had allegedly been hiding in the Skikda Province, in northeast Algeria.Ikram Ghioua, “Les dessous d’un regain terroriste aux frontières et les alertes de l’algérie,” L’Expression (Algeria), October 18, 2016, http://www.tamoudre.org/geostrategie/terrorisme-geostrategie/dessous-dun-regain-terroriste-aux-frontieres-alertes-de-lalgerieet-lon-reparle-de-droukdel/. In January 2018, the same newspaper confirmed Droukdel’s residency in Tunisia. L’Expression reported that Algerian security services had prevented a meeting among senior AQIM leaders, which was aimed at restructuring the group’s ranks and preparing for Droukdel’s return to Algeria.Ikram Ghioua “Les terroristes de Khenchela sous la coupe de Droukdel,” L’Expression (Algeria), January 28, 2018, http://www.lexpressiondz.com/actualite/284964-les-terroristes-de-khenchela-sous-la-coupe-de-droukdel.html. The Algerian armed forces increasingly decimated AQIM’s ranks over recent years, and Droukdel lost members of his inner circle.Malek Bachir and Akram Kharief, “ANALYSIS: The slow death of al-Qaeda in Algeria,” February 1, 2018, https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/analysis-slow-death-al-qaeda-algeria-143324001.

Droukdel regularly issued audio and video propaganda messages.“Wadud, Abu Musab Abdul, (Abdelmalek Droukdel),” Site Intelligence, accessed October 5, 2018, https://ent.siteintelgroup.com/index.php?option=com_customproperties&task=tag&tagId=431&phpMyAdmin=31%20%20b32de8000cb1c40d5792b21dc9961a. In July 2017, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) published an exclusive interview with Droukdel in its 17th issue of Inspire magazine, where he urged Muslims to wage jihad in Western and francophone countries. Droukdel also justified al-Qaeda’s battle against the United States in general.AQAP, “Train Derail Operations,” Inspire, July 2017, https://azelin.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/inspire-magazine-17.pdf.

On June 4, 2020, French troops killed Droukdel in Talhandak, Mali, near the Algerian border. The United States provided intelligence that helped the French soldiers locate Droukdel.Agence France-Presse, “French troops kill Al-Qaeda’s North Africa chief Abdelmalek Droukdel,” Telangana Today, June 6, 2020, https://telanganatoday.com/french-troops-kill-al-qaedas-north-africa-chief-abdelmalek-droukdel.

 
United Nations

The United Nations Security Council listed Abdelmalek Droukdel as an individual associated with al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb on August 27, 2007. “QI.D.232.07. ABDELMALEK DROUKDEL,” United Nations Security Council, accessed May 4, 2015, http://www.un.org/sc/committees/1267/NSQDi232E.shtml.

European Union

The EU listed Abdelmalek Droukdel as a ‘Natural person’ associated with the al-Qaeda network on August 27, 2007. “COMMISSION IMPLEMENTING REGULATION (EU) No 34/2012,” EUR-Lex, accessed May 5, 2015, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?qid=1430877200512&uri=CELEX:32012R0034.

France

France designated Abdelmalek Droukdel as a terrorist according to EU regulations on September 3, 2007.“Liste terroriste unique,” La direction générale du Trésor, accessed May 5, 2015, http://www.tresor.economie.gouv.fr/5563_liste-terroriste-unique.

United States

The U.S. Department of the Treasury designated Abdelmalek Droukdel as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist pursuant to Executive Order 13224 on December 04, 2007. “Treasury Designates AQIM Emir,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, December 4, 2007, http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/hp708.aspx.

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