The recent siege at Algeria's In Amenas gas complex highlights a long-standing rivalry between jihadist leaders in the Sahara, Maghreb analysts said.
The attack was orchestrated by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, an al-Qaeda militant with a long history of bloody attacks in his native Algeria.
Belmokhtar, also known as Khaled Abou El Abbas or Laaouar, had a falling out with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) leadership last fall.
Mohamed Mokaddem, an author of several books on al-Qaeda, told AFP Belmokhtar never accepted the fact that AQIM leader Abdelmalek Droukdel chose Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, Belmokhtar's chief rival, over him.
"To [Belmokhtar], Abou Zeid is just a vulgar smuggler turned jihadist with no legitimacy," Mokaddem said.
Sahel Isselmou Ould Moustapha, a Mauritanian specialist in Islamist movements, said "Belmokhtar considers Abou Zeid an ignoramus, a leader without charisma."
"He feels mistreated by AQIM [leadership] because, unlike other jihadist leaders in its history, he comes from southern Algeria, and not the north," Ould Moustapha said.
The assault on the Algerian gas plant was an attempt for Belmokhtar to reassert himself, analysts told Magharebia.com.
"He tried to restore confidence in his character by establishing the 'Signatories in Blood' brigade," said Sidi Ahmed Ould Otafal, a Mauritanian terrorism analyst.
Belmokhtar's actions reflect "some sort of internal conflict among [AQIM] leaders who are interested in gains and fame only," Ould Otafal added.
Political analyst Abdul Hamid Ansari said Belmokhtar used the Algeria attack to say to his al-Qaeda colleagues that his existence was important in the region and they could not do without him.
Since Belmokhtar failed and many of his cohorts were killed or captured at In Amenas, the game has become open to all, according to Ansari.
The In Amenas hostage-taking operation erased any notion that Belmokhtar and his group might have learned that violence does not pay off and that could lead to further disintegration and infighting, Rajeh Said, a terrorism analyst based in London, said.
Attacks against civilians were the major reasons groups Belmokhtar formerly belonged to, such as the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria (GIA), and the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) alienated the populations and disintegrated, he added.
Belmokhtar went as far as misleading and killing young recruits who considered getting out, Sidi Mohamed Ould Abdel Kader, a Sahel expert and veteran of the 1990s Touareg rebellion, said.
He said Belmokhtar would first give young recruits in the Sahel region and northern Mali loans and lend them vehicles to engage in cigarette and drug smuggling.
"Later on, he would gather them and lecture them on the importance of jihad and convince them to take up arms," he added.
Abdel Kader said some of these young people believed in jihadist ideology, while others needed the money. The rest found out they had fallen into a trap but could not pull back.
"If any of these young people considered getting out, [Belmokhtar] would kill him," Sidi Mohamed told Magharebia. "I know some of the people he killed."
"Therefore, many young people proceed in this kind of life rather than be executed," he added.