The security forces
continue to hunt down the several hundred Islamic terrorists operating in the
countryside. A dozen or more of the terrorists are arrested or killed each week.
Unlike a decade ago, the Islamic terrorists are no longer able to scare all the
locals into keeping quiet. Back then, entire families, or villages, would be
slaughtered for talking to the police. Now the terrorists are too few in
number, and have to keep their heads down and hope for the best. But the
widespread hatred of the Islamic radicals, because of the brutal tactics of the
1990s, makes it easier for most Algerians to call the cops with reports of
suspicious activity. Out in the countryside, strangers stand out, especially
bearded ones carrying guns.
The police and army have been able to
run down known terrorist cells thanks to all these tips. This led to the recent
capture of four men involved in the December bombings directed against the UN.
The four included two men who looked after, and guided, the suicide bombers to
their target, and two who filmed the operation. Police believe they have killed
the leader of that cell, and are seeking the bomb makers, recruiters, financers
and other planners. The four men captured indicated that another attack was in
the works. Typically, al Qaeda suicide bomber teams consist of about a dozen
men, plus the expendable suicide bombers. Police have destroyed or broken up
several of these cells in the past year. But the survivors tend to either flee
the country (Europe is a popular sanctuary), or rebuild the cell and get back
to work. The terrorists who go to Europe are able to raise money, often via
threats and extortion directed at other Algerian exiles. Some cash comes in
from wealthy Islamic conservatives in the Persian Gulf. Since merging with al
Qaeda last year, the Algerian terrorists have managed to set off about one
suicide bomb a month. This is not enough to seriously threaten the government,
but is done mainly for the propaganda value. It helps recruiting and fund
raising. The attacks do not make the bombers any more popular among the general
population. So in the long run, the bombings just make it possible to carry out
more bombings. Not a winning tactic, but all Al Qaeda has at the moment.
February 5, 2008: Police shot the driver of a suicide car bomb,
in a town 65 kilometers east of the capital. The bomber went off and killed the
bomber and two bystanders near a police station (the apparent target).
February 1, 2008: Near the Mali border, troops hunted down a
group of Islamic terrorists and killed five, and arrested one. Most of them
were foreigners, but their leader was a known Islamic terrorist. The army has
been cracking down on smuggling along the southern border, and dozens of
smugglers have been arrested in the past few weeks. The Islamic terrorists use
the smugglers to get themselves, and weapons, back-and-forth across the border.
January 29, 2008: Near the Mali border, a group of men crossing
the desert in four-wheel drive vehicles, opened fire on a passing military
helicopter. The army began a search.
January 20, 2008: Last year, GDP went
up 11 percent, while unemployment fell from 12.8 to 11.8 percent. But the
unemployment rate is much higher among young men, who are still the prime
recruiting pool of Islamic terrorists. The continued corruption in Algeria aids
the terrorist recruiters, but not as much as the fact that about a quarter of
Algerian men in their teens and twenties cannot get a job.