But far from defeated, al-Qaeda and its affiliates have been trying to respond to the Islamic State challenge more forcefully in a bid to show off their militant bona fides, said Fawaz A. Gerges, professor of Middle Eastern politics at the London School of Economics.
The Nov. 20 attack on the Radisson Blu hotel in Mali’s capital of Bamako, in which militants took 170 hostages, 20 of whom were killed, serves as one example, Gerges said. Al-Qaeda’s North African affiliate, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, asserted responsibility for the assault, which in coordination with allied militants targeted a Western symbol days after the Islamic State claimed an attack in Paris that killed 130 people.
The Mali attack triggered a flurry of praise on social media among al-Qaeda supporters.
“What al-Qaeda has been doing is to try to carry out spectacular attacks on its own and show capacity,” Gerges said, describing the group as having “much life in its global veins.”