Aqim leader surrenders in Algeria

2010-06-01 09:07

Algiers - A senior member of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim), Athmane Touati, alias Abou El-Abbes, has surrendered to the security services in Algeria, a security source said on Monday.

The security services "succeeded on May 25 2010 in obtaining the surrender" of Touati, an Aqim officer in the central zone east of Algiers, and a member of the leadership of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, the source said, according to the APS news agency.

This radical Islamist, born in Bordj Menail near Boumerdes, 50km from Algiers, turned himself in after being persuaded by his wife to abandon the armed groups he had joined in 1993, APS said, without giving further details or saying where he had surrendered.

The security services the same day "obtained repentance" from another radical Islamist, Abdelhalim Grig-Ahsine, who had also been active in the central region after joining the insurgents in 1993.

Aqim, which grew out of the GSPC  whose predecessors waged a low-level civil war in the 1990s and first years of this century - is led by Abdelmalek Droukdel. He loses with Abou El-Abbes "a third essential aide" in two months, according to the security source.

Ahmad Mansouri Ahmed, known as Abdeldjebbar, who led the El-Farouk cell, surrendered last April 16, and two days later Lounis Mokadem, alias Abou Naamane, the former head of Aqim's medical commission, surrendered, after being a guerilla since 1996.

The Algerian security services argue that the defection of these "veterans" of armed groups, who were all "considered members of the hard line of GSPC/Aqim," reflects "the state of collapse and flight" in armed Islamic groups in Algeria.

Thousands of former Islamist guerrillas laid down their arms when President Abdelaziz Bouteflika offered an amnesty, then he proposed a "charter for peace and national reconciliation" in 2005, during his second term. This has ended the civil war in Algeria, though sporadic conflict continues.