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Former al Qaeda captive ‘not surprised’ by Algeria attack

January 17th, 2013
05:08 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

The Canadian diplomat who was held captive by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb for five months said that he was “not in the least” surprised by the attack by militants on workers at a natural gas facility in the Algerian desert.

“They are on the look, constantly, for this kind of operation,” Robert Fowler told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday.

“What does surprise me,” he said, “is any suggestion, either from the spin-meisters on the al Qaeda side or indeed from the Algerian government side that somehow this action against the LNG [Liquid Natural Gas] facility was a direct result of the situation in Mali.”

The perpetrators of the attack, as well as their one-eyed leader, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, have been waging a rebellion against the Algerian government for 20 years, Fowler said.

“I suspect that Belmokhtar has been scoping this one out for some time,” he told Amanpour.

Four years ago, Fowler was kidnapped by Belmokhtar’s followers in Niger. He was held for 130 days in neighboring Mali, where he met Belmokhtar several times.

As to whether the attackers are “bandits flying a flag of Islamic convenience” or “latter-day Robin Hoods doing some banditry to nourish the cause,” Fowler said, he believed it was the latter.

“I’ve never seen a more focused, more selfless group of young men in my life,” he said. “They were dressed in rags. There was absolutely no suggestion of wealth or interest in wealth. They were young guys. They didn’t want cool sunglasses or neat shoes. They didn’t have MP3 players. They tended their weapons carefully, and they would tell me again, and again, and again that their only objective was to do God’s will, fight God’s fight, and to get to paradise as soon as possible.”

READ MORE: Algerian army frees some hostages in military strike

Filed under:  Algeria • Latest Episode • Mali
soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. rob

    "get to paradise as soon as possible"...

    hopefully for a great many of these islamists (terrorists, religious fascists) this will become realit, rather sooner than later.
    and though I personally do neither believe in paradise nor in hell, the latter would suit them far better...

    islam should no longer be considered a 'religion' in the west!

    January 17, 2013 at 11:50 pm | Reply
    • NDIAYE

      When you do not have any idea of a subject, please do not make any comment.
      Those drug lords and criminals refer to God and Islam to justify their behavior, which does not make any sense.
      Those criminals are not muslims and only people like you, who need to better know Islam, could trust these people when they refer to Islam. I an a muslim and all (real) muslim all over the world hope that they will go to hell!

      January 18, 2013 at 3:55 am | Reply
      • Jack

        All three of you? Are you absolutely sure about the other two?

        January 18, 2013 at 4:34 am |
      • Neil

        Whether you like it or not they're muslim and they're conducting these attacks in the name of Islam and I rarely get to hear these terrorists being denounced by other Muslims.

        January 18, 2013 at 6:11 am |
      • stillwater77

        Ndiaye, you are right. There was a time when these people would have simply been called bandits and cutthroats. By calling them Islamist, we give them an elevated status they do not deserve. After all when professed Christians kidnap someone, we don't say "Christian kidnappers." Perhaps the media is part of the problem. By giving these thugs an Islamist label they make it attractive to young disenchanted Arabs to follow the same path.

        January 18, 2013 at 2:25 pm |
      • Armand

        stillwater77 you are disinformed. Do not mess the insignificant few Christian extremists with this issue. Google for "National Counterterrorism Center Report on Terrorism ". There were 12,000 terrorist murders only in 2011 and 70% of these killings of mostly innocent people were sunni muslims, says the report. Worst thing is to deny a problem exists. Best thing would be if the majority peaceful muslim stop denying it and become aware of this serious problem and do something to stop it in cooperation with other peaceful people from other religions. @NDIYAE you are a peaceful muslim, you should start inquiring where goes your donations you do in the mosques. Google for "Head of Mosque in Miami under trial for terrorism charges" an article from the International Herald Tribune and see where the money was being sent to by the mosque imam.

        January 18, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
    • Armand

      "I’ve never seen a more focused...", he should have said "...a more brainwashed...".

      January 18, 2013 at 2:36 pm | Reply
  2. Sick&Tired

    We, as the international community, are not doing enough to help these people. Let's commit to making sure these young men get to paradise as soon as possible.

    January 17, 2013 at 11:51 pm | Reply
  3. TREX

    ..........We have a duty to assit these young men in their quest to attain paradise as soon as possible............

    January 18, 2013 at 6:16 am | Reply

    Conducting a war in the name of Islam does not mean you are a muslim! These people are criminals and drugs lords!

    January 18, 2013 at 7:50 am | Reply
  5. pinkyandthebrain

    I think NDIAYE, the muslim just denounced those muslims. Just saying

    January 18, 2013 at 12:12 pm | Reply
  6. theroadx

    I hope for non-Muslims to have a good common sense and sharp mind to differentiate between Muslims and fake ones. My country had been fighting those terrorists for decades and still. We are all Muslims in Algeria so if we were convinced that what are these international criminals are doing is Islam. We will let them do it and bless them for it.Please have a sharp mind. Islam is not what fake beards terrorists is. Thank you.

    January 18, 2013 at 1:17 pm | Reply
    • Hello

      islam and all religions are a programed mental disorders... Brain pollution is a terrible way to lose yourself.
      religion = brain pollution.

      January 26, 2013 at 2:14 am | Reply
  7. ruetai

    I would say in the first place Robert Fowler actually is contradicting himself . Just look at what is written he told: “I’ve never seen a more focused, more s e l f l e s s group of young men in my life,” he said. " they would tell me again, and again, and again that their only objective get to paradise as soon as possible.” He only makes a difference between being material selfless and being spiritual selfless. I would say they are not just selfless they are slefless with regard to their egoism. Why do these 'selfless' young men not choose to do the good thing, to help old and sick people, orphans, handicapped and hungry people. Why are they not extemely hard at work to take care ervery young child will get a proper balanced schooleducation??? No, 'selfless' They choose to roam the desserts, to make and to execute plans by wich they in an agressive and inhuman way attack other people who are not in armed situation. they execute their plans in a secret sneaky sly way. And they do all this to fullfill their personal desire to go to paradise. Selfless, NO WAY! These oriental young man have this utterly selfish desire and what is the best situation, route and excuse to fullfill their personal desire. Yes, fundamental Islam! This religion nowadays Can Be Used to become a guncollecter, a smuggler, a thief, a criminal, a killer, a robber, just name it. Islam to them is just an umbrella, the ultemate excuse. History will show they not just embarassed Islam to the core they are the ones that will destroy Islam. There will be a day that a human on earth will be too much ashamed to call himself a Muslim, thanks to all those mindless selfish fanatics.

    January 18, 2013 at 2:32 pm | Reply
  8. Matt

    That is how the Algerians operate, they could have those sorts of attacks everyday all over the country. So the message is to deter that. There is no point because we will kill the hostages and the hostage takers. And that is what happened. You cause chaos and interrupt the energy industry there would be civil unrest and an Arab Spring in the Algiers. The Government want stability. To the west it is foreign to do things that way, to the Algerians it is SOP. it is murky too how they keep control over the Jihadist, they operate like the Selous Scouts.

    January 20, 2013 at 10:07 am | Reply
    • theroadx

      Algerian military doesn't negotiate with terrorists. Because the ransom they ask makes them more powerful and stronger. Algeria asked the Security Council to set this article and it became effective since 2009. Our army knows how to deal with these international criminals it was 23 years experience since 1990. And this terrorist attack is just a pathetic try to drag Algeria to the alleged ARABIC SPRING swamp and to make it look like that some terrorists from Mali fled to Algeria so the french and maybe the NATO will find its excuse to get into Algeria which will never happen because we all aware of these dirty games of the west as people and as a nation.Long live my country and our hero army.

      January 20, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Reply
  9. ...

    Just send in the SAS or SEALs and turn these guys into floor and wall stains.

    January 21, 2013 at 3:28 pm | Reply
  10. northerstar

    The terrorists have dragged being 'muslim' and 'islamists' into the news by claiming their acts or terrorism are conducted in the name of 'Islam'. "Christians' do not claim the same (for most acts). Islam has spoken against some of these acts but has not risen up against terrorism in a way that is able to stop them. Islamist Terrorist still find a place to hide, get food, etc. "Fundamentalist muslins" still want to drag countries back a 1000 years.

    January 22, 2013 at 7:19 am | Reply
  11. Hello

    I am so glad I am an Atheist.. and do not have my brain polluted with mythic garbage.
    I could not imagine what it would be like to have my brain full of that krap.
    religion=brain slave

    January 26, 2013 at 2:11 am | Reply
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