Yahya Abu el Hammam serves as a senior leader of al-Qaida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), planning operations and kidnapping Westerners in North and West Africa. Hammam has played a key role in perpetuating AQIM’s terrorist activities in West Africa and Mali, and participated in several AQIM terrorist attacks in Mauritania. In July 2010, Hammam was reportedly involved in the killing of a seventy-eight year old French hostage in Niger. In 2006, Hammam was sentenced to death in absentia by Algerian authorities for terrorism-related charges. Hammam was designated by the U.S. Department of Treasury pursuant to Executive Order 13224 on February 14, 2013. Hammam was also listed by the United Nations al-Qaida Sanctions Committee on February 5, 2013.
Al-Qaida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), previously known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), has conducted dozens of terrorist attacks in the northwest Africa region. AQIM has claimed responsibility for suicide bombings, kidnappings of Westerners, assassinations, and improvised explosive device attacks. The group conducted two simultaneous suicide operations in December 2007, attacking a United Nations program headquarters and the Algerian Constitutional Council, killing 42 people and wounding 158 others. AQIM also claimed responsibility for the June 2009 murder of American citizen Christopher Leggett, who was in Mauritania conducting missionary work. In September 2012, AQIM encouraged members to threaten U.S. embassies and kill U.S. ambassadors. AQIM announced its official alliance to al-Qaida in September 2006, and has since reaffirmed its intention to attack Western targets.
The U.S. Department of State named the GSPC a Foreign Terrorist Organization under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (as amended) on March 27, 2002, and renewed the group’s designation under its new name of AQIM on October 16, 2009. The U.S. Department of Treasury named the group a Specially Designated Terrorist Entity under Executive Order 13224 on February 21, 2008.