On March 24th U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) announced a high ranking al-Qaeda official named Musa Abu Dawud was killed in a U.S. airstrike in the Southern Libya town of Ubari.
This strike was the second of its kind conducted in Libya since the beginning of 2018. In 2017 the U.S. conducted 12 strikes in Libya, a considerable decrease from 2016 when the U.S. conducted 497 strikes in Libya as a part of a campaign in support of a Libyan operation to dislodge Islamic State (IS) from the city Sirte.
Dawud was added to the U.S. State Department’s Specially Designated Global Terrorist list in May of 2016. He began engaging in terrorist activity in 1992 and rose through the ranks to become a “senior Leader” for the Group for Call and Combat (GSPC) which merged with al-Qaeda in 2006. Dawud was appointed as commander of the southern zone for al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in 2012 and was responsible for training and recruiting new members across North Africa. Dawud is also noted to have “provided critical logistics support, funding and weapons to AQIM” according to AFRICOM.
AQIM is a significant threat to the North Africa region. Their strategy consists of patience, and it attempts to avoid scrutiny. AQIM sees jihadi state building as a long-term endeavor.
AQIM’s origins trace back to GSPC, GSPC was an Islamist guerilla movement that stemmed from the Algerian civil war in the late 90’s. On September 11th of 2006 al-Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri announced a merger with GSPC; this moved earned GSPC new legitimacy.
GSPC now known as AQIM, set out to remove western influence and actors from the region. Al-Qaeda has shown resilience and commitment for their long-term vision in Libya. AQIM has backed groups such as Ansar al Sharia and Abu Salim Martyrs Brigades based out of Dema Libya.
Al-Qaeda is allied with numerous groups in Libya and are pooling their resources together with other organizations inside the country. Most North African countries have poor national governments and vast amounts of lawless, unoccupied space that terrorist organizations are attracted to. The U.S. and EU must keep a close eye on the region because they cannot afford to be unprepared.