The major argument of this essay is that the impact of specific, high-ranking militants within AQIM was decisive in boosting the Sahelisation and the hybridisation of the Algerian terrorism. The GSPC had to move southward following the situation of weakness in which it was caught at the end of the 1990s. Yet, the rise within the ranks of the GSPC/AQIM of Mokhtar Belmokhtar earlier, and Abou Zeid later, were key factors in changing the operational and geographic features of the group. Above all after joining the Al Qaeda franchising – and using more Qaedist tactics to hit Algeria between 2007 and 2008 – the group increased its focus on para-legal and illegal economic activities, some of them also openly illicit (Haram), reducing its commitment toward proper and classic minor Jihad. The personalities, as well as the personal features and ambitions of the two key AQIM southern leaders, were key in strengthening this dynamic.
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