One of the people that knows him best says these events in Algeria signal that Belmoktar has chosen to walk down the path of Abou Zeid.
Moustapha Chaffi has been the main hostage negotiator on many of the kidnappings carried out by both Belmoktar and Abou Zeid. It was he who was waiting to receive Fowler and the two women on April 21, 2008. He confirmed that Belmoktar ran to give them the dysentry pills, and later insisted they be released.
"Before he led this operation in Algeria, that was the sentiment I had, that Belmoktar was less brutal," Chaffi said by telephone on Friday. "Now I find myself thinking that they are all terrorists. That they all take hostages. That they are all fanatics. So to draw a difference between them is really, really relative. There's in fact no difference anymore."
Associated Press writer Jamey Keaten in Dakar, Senegal and Cassandra Vinograd in London contributed to this report.