Algeria: Al Qaeda Fights To Die

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February 6, 2008: 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.

 

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