Algeria: Beware The Suicidal Gangsters

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May 25,2008: Soldiers and police have identified at least half a dozen Islamic terrorist cells, most of them operating outside (a hundred or so kilometers out) the capital. There are plenty of forested mountains to hide in, and villages to obtain supplies from. The terrorists are a tough opponent, as they are willing to die, and are resourceful. They have cash, and can buy explosives, and cooperation from some civilians. Ambushes, particularly those featuring roadside bombs, can lead to small patrols (one vehicle, with up to half a dozen troops) getting wiped out. It's a bit of a war zone out there.

Islamic terrorists bring some cash with them from outside the country, but a lot is still obtained via extortion and kidnapping. Last year, for example, about 30 percent of the 375 known kidnappings were related to Islamic terrorism. These yielded at least $19 million in ransom. Extortion also yielded millions, but usually in the form of food and other supplies. Rural people provide this support to the terrorists in order to avoid having a family member kidnapped. Many of the non-terrorist related kidnappings are similar, with non-religious criminals involved. For many rural people, the Islamic terrorists are simply suicidal gangsters. Dangerous, yes, but just another bunch of bandits preying on country folk. Some of the terrorists are simply criminals who got religion, but most are young men motivated by all the media attention Islamic radicalism has gotten. Since the early 1990s, over 200,000 have died from Islamic radical violence. That's in a country with a population of 34 million. There is not much sympathy for Islamic radicals, and recently the courts sentenced 24 captured ones to death. Many more got long prison sentences.

May 21, 2008: In the south, Tuareg rebels fought with soldiers across the border in northern Mali, leaving 27 dead. The Tuareg are ethnic cousins of the Berbers to the north, and also don't get along with Arabs, or anyone for that matter. There is also a Tuareg revolt in neighboring Niger. Like the Berbers, the Tuareg are not attracted to Islamic radicalism or al Qaeda, but will provide support, for a price.

May 19, 2008: In neighboring Morocco, police arrested eleven men and charged them with plotting to carry out terror attacks in Morocco and Belgium. Islamic terrorism is not very popular in Morocco, because the attacks often kill civilians, so the police get a lot of tips.

May 18, 2008: In the northern town of Beriane, three days of battles between gangs of Arabs and Berbers left two dead, dozens injured and hundreds homeless (because their homes were burned down.) The violence developed as gangs of young unemployed men used ethnic differences as an excuse to raise some hell. The Berbers, a people related to the ancient Egyptians, were the original occupants of Algeria. Arab armies conquered the country over a thousand years ago, but, unlike other Arab conquests, most Berbers did not adopt Arab language and customs. Today, about a third of Algerians are Berbers, and speak the Berber language, Tamazight. There has always been tension between Berbers and Arabs, and now Berbers are demanding that their language be made one of Algeria's official languages. The Arab dominated government refuses to consider this. Until recently, Berber violence had been in the form of rowdy demonstrations.

 

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