New al-Qaeda branch demands €30 million to free aid workers
A relatively new branch of al-Qaeda has demanded a ransom of €30 million for the release of three European aid workers kidnapped from a refugee camp in Algeria on October 23.
Two of the hostages are Spanish nationals, one man and one woman, while the third is an Italian woman. They are held by a group calling itself Jamat Tawhid wal Jihad fi Garbi Afriqqiya (Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa - MOJWA) which was unheard of until it released a video of the hostages on December 12. The new branch of al-Qaeda was formed as a splinter group from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) which has become as well armed as a small army since plundering weapons made available during the conflict in Libya.
According to Alarabiya
MOJWA broke from AQIM in order to "spread jihad to west Africa and not confine themselves to the north African Maghreb or Sahel regions." It is believed the group is led by Malians and Mauritanians, whilst AQIM is led by Algerians. The Islamic extremists who comprise AQIM raise funding through drug smuggling, kidnapping and weapons dealings, operating primarily in the Sahara region.
reported that MOJWA issued a statement explaining it had broken away from AQIM but was not at war with them, saying "We have the same goal: jihad." Security experts suggested the break away was made possible due to the glut of availability of weapons from Libya.
There has been previous speculation that former members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), led by Abdel Hakim Belhaj, now the military leader of Tripoli, which had connections to AQIM, could have helped to provide weapons
to them. Members of the disbanded LIFG joined the rebel forces against Gaddafi and were quick to lay siege to weapon stores at the beginning of the Libyan conflict.