Algeria: Where Have All The Islamic Terrorists Gone

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September 5, 2016: There has been a lot less Islamic terrorist activity over the last few months. One reason for this is the security forces continuing to follow up quickly on leads supplied by Islamic terrorists, local civilians and captured documents. A lot more Islamic terrorists and their supporters are being arrested and are willing to talk. There have been few major finds in the last few months although there is lots of evidence that leads provided were accurate. But it appears few Islamic terrorists have been in these areas for months or longer. Some weapons and explosives are found but most of the hideouts and caches (hidden storage sites) were empty and appeared to have been unused for a long time. Most of the illegal activity is smugglers along the borders moving food, fuel and illegal migrants.

Western intelligence agencies see the success of Algerian counterterrorism efforts as a major factor in the ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) failure to establish a major presence in North Africa. ISIL tried in Libya but failed in part because few Algerians were willing to come and join. It is believed that Tunisia, with 72 percent fewer people, sent more recruits to join ISIL in Syria and Libya. This was largely because most Tunisians actively opposed Islamic terrorists after the 2011 revolution and that made it possible to establish an elected government. Unlike Algeria, there was no war with Islamic terrorists in the 1990s. In Algeria the Islamic terrorists lost that fight and most of those that survived fled to wherever they could (often Europe and North America). ISIL did gain a foothold in Libya but that base, in the coastal city of Sirte, was recently destroyed, along most of the remaining ISIL men in North Africa.

ISIL itself never established a branch in Algeria but one of the few al Qaeda factions still active in Algeria did. This took place in coastal areas east of the capital that had been used by Islamic terrorists since the 1990s. By 2014 many of the remaining Islamic terrorists here belonged to a group called Jund al Khalifa. This was the local branch of AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb). In September 2014 Jund al Khalifa renounced its ties to al Qaeda and declared its allegiance to ISIL. Only two months before that AQIM leaders had reaffirmed their allegiance to al Qaeda and condemned ISIL, which had recently declared a new caliphate (Islamic empire run by ISIL) in Syria and Iraq. Since joining ISIL Jund al Khalifa became a lot more violent. Small groups of AQIM have been hiding out in the coastal mountains east of the capital for years and security forces were constantly searching the thinly populated mountains and forests of Bouira province. One reason AQIM survived in this area was because they kept quiet and tended to their criminal activities (drug smuggling) and cultivating new members. This strategy did not appeal to the more radical Jund al Khalifa and that led to joining ISIL. This meant losing a lot of members, some of whom surrendered to the government and provided information on Islamic terrorist activities in the coastal areas. That, plus the public outrage at the renewed Islamic terrorist violence and the growing availability of cell phones (the Islamic terrorists’ worst enemy) was the beginning of the end. By mid-2016 Jund al Khalifa appeared to be gone from their usual coastal haunts. There was little evidence that many AQIM members remained either. There are still some Islamic terrorists and supporters in Algeria but they are gone from their usual areas of operation and the search is on to find out where any may still be in the country.

For Algeria all this meant fewer problems with Islamic terror. When Islamic terrorists lose this much infrastructure and armed supporters they are in big trouble. This can be seen in the declining number of terror attacks and growing number of Islamic terrorists clashing with the security forces and losing. The Islamic radicals still have supporters, especially among men under age 30 (about 30 percent of whom are unemployed). The government has tried, especially since 2010, to reduce the youth unemployment rate but so far has not had much success. But the government still has a chance because economic reforms have enabled Algeria to keep GDP growing going despite the price of oil dropping fifty percent in the last three years and staying there. Even as that GDP growth keeps moving towards four percent a year it will not quickly fix the jobs shortage. If the population growth rate remains under two percent and the economic growth continues lowering the youth unemployment rate is still possible. Meanwhile the government also had success, largely because of popular support, in shutting down mosques and religious schools run by Islamic conservative clergy that support Islamic terrorism.

September 3, 2016: Algeria announced that it had reduced oil exports by eight percent so far this year. This actually saved $710 million because Algeria managed to increase its refining capacity and was able to depend less on more expensive imports of refined petroleum products. Many oil exporting nations have this problem, mainly because it is easier for corrupt officials to steal from imports than from exports. Thus for years politicians refused to expand local refining capacity. The current economic crises caused by years of much lower oil prices enabled reformers to finally get some fundamental and much needed economic changes made to keep the economy going and growing. Even the corrupt government understood that the reforms were essential to prevent a large scale rebellion against their decades of unpopular rule.

August 31, 2016: The government has started construction of a 350 kilometer long barrier along some of the borders with Tunisia and Libya. Algeria has a 1,034 kilometer border with Tunisia and 989 kilometers with Libya. The new barrier only covers the most active (for smugglers of all sorts) areas. The new battier will consist of a three meter (10 foot) high earthen wall topped by a barbed wire fence. This barrier is mainly to reduce arms smuggling into (mainly) and out of Algeria.

August 30, 2016: In Tizi Ouzou (120 kilometers east of the capital) army patrols found three Islamic terrorists caches containing a mortar, one mortar shell and four locally made bombs.

In the east, just across the border in Tunisia (Kasserine province) soldiers cornered two Islamic terrorists and killed them when they refused to surrender. A civilian also died in the crossfire. At least one of the dead Islamic terrorists was known to be actively planning new attacks. Tunisia’s Kasserine province is on the Algerian border close to the coast. This area is mountainous and sparsely populated and long a hideout for Islamic terrorists.

August 29, 2016: In the east, just across the border in Tunisia (Kasserine province) an Islamic terrorist landmine went off killing three Tunisian soldiers and wounding five others. This was supposed to be an ambush but some soldiers began firing on the armed Islamic terrorists nearby, killing two of them and causing the others to flee. AQIM later took credit for the attack

August 27, 2016: In Jijel Province (365 kilometers east of the capital) the army found a weapons cache containing eight locally made bombs. Elsewhere in the area three Islamic terrorist supporters were arrested.

August 18, 2016: In Tizi Ouzou (120 kilometers east of the capital) army search teams two weapons caches were found, one containing two bombs and the other an AK-47 and three loaded magazines.

 

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