Algeria: No Country For Old Islamic Terrorists

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June 10, 2016: The Islamic terrorism threat, both inside the country and from neighbors (especially Libya, Mali and Tunisia) remains under control. There have been no major attacks in Algeria so far this year and few since early 2013. The army and police constantly search areas where any Islamic terrorist presence is identified. This is aided by the fact that Islamic terrorism is still quite unpopular throughout the country and many people will use their cell phones to call in tips that lead to arrests which often result in the discovery of where Islamic terrorist or their hideouts. Because of this several of these hideouts or weapons caches are found each week. Often Islamic terrorists are found in the vicinity and killed or captured. Few Algerian Islamic terrorists who fled after 1999 have returned and there are not many new recruits. The 1999 government amnesty program ended the 1990s Islamic terrorist uprising. The government estimates that during the 1990s the fighting killed 62 percent of the 27,000 Islamic terrorists active inside Algeria and most survivors accepted the amnesty. But as many as 2,000 Islamic terrorists either fled or kept operating inside Algeria. These older Algerian Islamic terrorists (or their sons) keep showing up (usually dead) in other Middle Eastern countries or in Europe, still fighting and still losing.

The largest remaining Islamic terror group in Algeria is AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb), which was formed in 2007 from several of the 1990s era Algerian groups. AQIM now operates throughout northern and west-central Africa. Because AQIM leadership still contains a lot of Algerians the Algerian government has been helpful to African nations where AQIM is operating. AQIM now spends most of its time smuggling drugs, people and whatever else pays. They still carry out some terror attacks, if only to remain competitive with ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant), which is trying to displace (or absorb) AQIM and other Islamic terrorist groups in Africa.

Money Matters

Foreign analysts (especially from groups like the World Bank) agree that despite the continuing problems with corruption the Algerian government has managed to successfully cope with the low oil prices. Algerian GDP grew 2.9 percent in 2015 and appears on track to go up 3.4 percent in 2016. At the start of the 2016 World Bank analysts thought Algeria might see growth of 3.9 percent but now 3.4 percent seems more likely. If the government keeps up with the reforms and counter-corruption efforts GDP growth should continue to be the highest in Africa.

Many in the government saw the low oil prices as an opportunity to finally get some action on much needed changes that would allow enough economic freedom for new businesses to form and existing ones to expand. The desperate need for more efficiency (and less corruption) in the government controlled oil industry led to some long-overdue changes. It was widely known that corruption in the state oil company (Sonatrach) has hurt the economy for decades. Oil and gas exports account for 30 percent of GDP, 95 percent of exports and provides enough income to cover 60 percent of the government budget. That was in 2013, before the price of oil fell over 70 percent. Oil and gas are still important, even more so because that income has been reduced by more than half and the government cannot make a lot of cuts because much government spending is to buy the loyalty of key segments of the population like government employees, especially those in the security forces and oil industry. Thus many people see the sudden eagerness to prosecute corrupt officials directed mainly at obtaining enough oil revenue to maintain the loyalty (to the corrupt government) of key groups.

June 8, 2016: In the southwest (Medea province, 90 kilometers from the capital) soldiers ambushed and killed four heavily armed Islamic terrorists.

June 1, 2016: In the southwest (Medea province, 90 kilometers from the capital) soldiers encountered some armed Islamic terrorists and killed four of them. The next day another armed Islamic terrorist was captured nearby. This area and its thick forests have been a favorite hiding place for Islamic terrorists since the early 1990s. Despite the constant army and police patrols, some Islamic terrorists keep trying to establish themselves here and the security forces keep finding them.

May 31, 2016: In the east (Setif province, 300 kilometers from the capital) troops ambushed a group of Islamic terrorists and killed eight of them. Weapons, cell phone, ammo solar panels were seized. The Islamic terrorists use the solar panels to keep their cell phones and other electronics charged. Seven of the eight dead Islamic terrorists were quickly identified and all of them had been terrorism suspects.

May 27, 2016: Police arrested three suspects in the March RPG attack on the Salah gas plant. The March incident took place near Krechba (1,200 kilometers south of the capital) when Islamic terrorists fired two RPG shells at the Salah natural gas plant but did no damage. The foreign companies running the plant did, however, withdraw their personnel until they could be assured that threat was not going to get worse. The facility, which employs 600 people (nearly all Algerians), was temporarily shut. AQIM took credit for the attack which employed at least one RPG (rocket propelled grenade) launcher. The RPG was apparently fired several hundred meters from the sprawling facility. RPGs are not very accurate at that distance and the security around the plant apparently prevented the attackers from getting any closer. Within two days troops killed four of the armed men they encountered near the Salah plant and captured another three. These turned out not to be involved in the RPG attack and the search for the perpetrators continued.

In east, just across the Tunisian border a landmine planted by Islamic terrorists killed two Tunisian civilians and wounded another. Back in February 2015 Algeria and Tunisia Algeria agreed to increase their cooperation in counter-terrorism matters. That included more sharing of intelligence and coordination of security efforts near their mutual border. This has reduced the incidence of Islamic terrorists crossing the border from either country but Tunisia has not been able to clear the remaining Islamic terrorists out of the border area (the heavily forested Atlas Mountains near the coast). Unlike Algeria, Tunisia has had a harder time keeping Islamic terrorists from Libya out, in large part because more of the Tunisian-Libyan border (especially near the coast) is heavily populated. The Algeria-Libya border is longer but in thinly populated desert and semi-desert and heavily patrolled by Algeria.

May 23, 2016: In the southeast (Bouria province, 120 kilometers from the capital) troops encountered and killed three Islamic terrorists. That makes twelve Islamic terrorists killed and large quantities of weapons, ammo and explosives seized since a major operation began on the 17th in Bouria and nearby Tizi Ouzou province. The soldiers and police also found dozens of Islamic terrorist camps and hidden storage sites for weapons and supplies.

 

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