Algeria: Give It Time


November 3, 2011: The few dozen families that run the country are confident that they have escaped the wrath of the Arab Spring uprisings. That's only partially true, as most Algerians are unhappy with their government, but not quite angry enough to rebel. Give it time. That's what Algerians a worried about.

October 30, 2011: Police arrested three al Qaeda members and accused them with taking part in the recent kidnapping of three European aid workers. The three captives are known to be alive, but no ransom demand has been made yet.

October 26, 2011: Algerian troops searching for three kidnapped aid workers in the southern desert, encountered four suspected al Qaeda members, and killed them in a gun battle. The three captives are believed to have been taken to Mali, although Mali denies this. However, it's easier to hide captives in Mali than in Algeria (which is better policed.)

October 24, 2011: The government refused a Libyan request to return members of recently killed Libyan tyrant Moamar Kaddafi's family. In late August, Kaddafi's wife, daughter and two sons (along with all their children) arrived and were granted asylum. The Kaddafi family has been hidden away in a posh country estate and ordered to keep quiet. So far they have, but they appear headed for comfortable exile. But the Kaddafis will be a constant headache for the Algerian government, as the new Libyan government seeks to extradite and prosecute the Kaddafis, and seize stolen money they are living off.

October 23, 2011: At a Polisario refugee camp near the Moroccan border, three European aid workers were kidnapped, apparently with the help of some Polisario officials, by al Qaeda members. This may have something to do with the declining prospects of Polisario, which has been in bad shape since 1991. Back then, Morocco finally won its war with Polisario Front rebels, who were seeking independence for the Western Sahara (a region south of Morocco). Polisario remained powerful in Mauritania, where the rebel group has official recognition and maintains several more refugee camps. Because Polisario was so well-subsidized by Algeria, back when Algeria was a radical state, Polisario still has enough diehards out there to keep lots of people in Western Sahara unhappy. This was known to provide recruits and sanctuary for al Qaeda and other Islamic radicals. For two decades, the UN has been trying to work out a final peace deal between Polasario and Morocco. In the 1990s, Algeria cut off all support for Polasario. But that, and UN efforts to mediate the differences, have just not worked. The contested area is largely desert with a population of less than 300,000. Logic would have it that the area is better off as a part of Morocco. But there are still thousands of locals who would rather fight for independence, than submit to Morocco. Some resistance is tribal and cultural, with the Moroccans seen as another bunch of alien invaders (the area was administered, until 1976, as a Spanish colony). If the fighting breaks out again, possibly inspired by Islamic radicals, it could go on for years, just as it does in many other parts of Africa, and the immediate neighborhood. Getting involved in cocaine smuggling provides money, some of which goes got guns and vehicles, making the Polisario fighters more formidable. Mali and Mauritanian police are increasingly arresting members of the Polisario Front who are involved with a major drug smuggling operation (moving cocaine from Guinea-Bissau, where it is flown in from South America, to the Mediterranean coast). Polisario Front members have long been involved in smuggling and other illegal activities, but their involvement in moving cocaine is relatively recent. This implies cooperation with al Qaeda, which apparently has worked out deals Polisario.

October 21, 2011: In neighboring Mauritania, officials claim to have killed an al Qaeda leader, and several of his associates, in an air raid. Al Qaeda later denied this.

October 17, 2011: A roadside bomb 50 kilometers east of the capital went off and killed a civilian.



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