Prominent reformist politicians are refusing to participate in the upcoming presidential election because aging (and quite ill) incumbent Abdelaziz Bouteflika and that means the voting will be rigged. Opposition political parties are calling for a widespread boycott of the election. Bouteflika is 76, suffered a stroke in 2013 and does not look well at all. Despite his infirmities several of Bouteflika’s allies are putting their ailing boss forward for another term in order to avoid a nasty fight to select a successor. The Bouteflika gang consists of powerful families that took over after the French left in the 1960s and have used corruption and coercion to get rich and monopolize political power. The rigged elections, corruption and economic stagnation (largely a result of the corruption) are creating growing unrest. While the government got some love for crushing the Islamic terrorist uprising in the 1990s that good will has largely dissipated.
February 27, 2014: Soldiers seized a truck near the Libyan border and found it to be carrying 40 unguided rockets and several SAM-7 portable anti-aircraft missiles. This was an al Qaeda operation and two of the men with the shipment were captured while several others escaped across the border into Libya.
February 24, 2014: Russia reports that Algeria will order two more Kilo class diesel-electric subs. In late 2013 Algeria received the two Russian Kilo class boats they ordered in 2009. The Kilos weigh 2,300 tons (surface displacement), have six torpedo tubes and a crew of 57. They are quiet, and can travel about 700 kilometers under water at a quiet speed of about five kilometers an hour. Kilos carry 18 torpedoes or SS-N-27 anti-ship missiles (with a range of 300 kilometers and launched underwater from the torpedo tubes.) The combination of quietness and cruise missiles makes Kilo very dangerous to all surface ships. China, India, Vietnam and Iran have also bought Kilos. Nearly 60 Kilos have been built or are under construction.
February 21, 2014: In the southeast (400 kilometers from the capital) police seized a weapons workshop and the two men who operated it. Five guns, gunpowder and 400 recently made bullets were seized. It’s unclear if the operators of the workshop supplied Islamic terrorists as well as local criminals (or anyone who wanted an unregistered firearm).
February 18, 2014: The government denied that there was a feud raging between the intelligence services and the military. For months there have been rumors of senior people in the intelligence and security agencies who are keen on cleaning up the corruption and pressuring the government to support this effort. There are also a lot of military officers who favor the anti-corruption drive and the government responded by accusing the reformers of being disloyal and plotting a coup. Fortunately for Bouteflika many senior military commanders are corrupt, some because they felt refusing the economic perks that were offered when they achieved high rank might be interpreted as disloyalty. Bouteflika believes the loyalty of the military is essential to keeping his corrupt crew in power. Now there is a split within the military and many corrupt leaders are moving more of their assets out of the country, just in case. If there’s another large-scale uprising and the military refuses to suppress it (or, worse, splits or falls apart because of disagreements among officers) the current government is done. Bouteflika also realizes that most of the troops are keen on anti-corruption efforts.
February 16, 2014: Just across the border in Tunisia some Islamic terrorists wearing army uniforms set up a checkpoint and killed four people (three of them government employees) and then left before the security forces found out and came looking for them. The terrorists took the two vehicles their victims had been driving. Two days earlier the army had captured an Islamic terrorist in the same area.
February 8, 2014: The government ordered another 3,000 police reinforcements to join the 3,000 already sent to
the southern oasis town of Ghardaia. There, violence between Arab and Berber residents over water, ethnicity and religion has gone on since late December. The fighting flared up again on the 25th when Arabs rioted to get arrested Arab rioters freed from jail. Over a hundred people have been arrested and there have been neatly 200 casualties (including four dead). The police, who are largely Arab, are accused of being biased against the Berbers. The ethnic tensions in this area, 600 kilometers south of the capital, have been growing since 2008 and there was another outbreak of violence in October 2013. The Arabs accuse the 800,000 Berbers in the south of supporting al Qaeda. In addition to the ethnic tensions there are also disagreements over religion. The Arabs belong to the Maliki school of Islam while the Berbers are largely from the less common Ibadi sect. About 30 percent of Algerians are Berber, but the percentage is higher in the south. Ghardaia is an ancient Berber city of 90,000 that contains many Ibadi shrines. Arabs got the unrest started by desecrating some of these shrines. This led to violent Berber reprisals, especially when images of the damage appeared on the Internet. The government is concerned for several reasons. For one thing there are oil fields are nearby. Worse, the sustained unrest among the Berbers could be the first breeze in a storm of reform that could engulf the entire country. The government has seen this ill wind coming for some time. The tensions in Ghardaia continue and more violence is expected.
February 4, 2014: In the southwest (Adrar province) police captured arms smugglers who were transporting three rifles and a large quantity of ammunition.
February 3, 2014: In the east (Boumerdes province) a bomb went off near a police checkpoint killing and civilian and wounding two others.