Algeria: Where Is The Love?

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August 22,2008:  Islamic terrorists have killed or wounded some 600 people in the last 18 months. The attacks come in bunches, as a terrorist cell jells and starts carrying out operations that often take weeks or months to plan. The pattern is for the police to collect evidence from the attacks, identify the terrorist cell, wipe it out, and wait for the next one to get organized.

Al Qaeda's major problem is not organizing terror attacks, but repairing their image with the Algerian people. While the corrupt and inefficient government (basically a dictatorship controlled by the families of the men who led the fight, half a century ago,  to free Algeria from French control) is widely hated, the Islamic terrorists are even more despised. The spreading use of cell phones had made it more difficult for the terrorists to operate, but they have adapted. What the terrorists have not been able to do is make themselves any more popular with the people, in whose name, they are doing all this killing. Although al Qaeda says it has learned its lesson from Iraq (don't kill so many civilians), the current attacks are still mainly killing civilians. And the soldiers and policemen killed have families too. The Islamic terrorists are not doing a lot of damage to the government, but they are increasing the number of locals who want al Qaeda dead and gone. This does not bode well for al Qaeda's long terms success in Algeria.

August 21, 2008: Suicide bombers hit a police school on the outskirts of the capital, killing over 40 and wounding about as many

August 18, 2008: In Mali, Tuareg tribal rebels released 21 soldiers, as a sign of good faith. Last month, the rebels agreed to a ceasefire with the government, and negotiations to settle differences. The Tuareg and Berbers (a similar people who are a large minority in Algeria) are remnants of the pre-Moslem people who continue to resist the imposition of Arab culture on the region.

August 15, 2008: Terrorist violence has increased in the last week, causing about a hundred casualties. Most alarming was that five of the terrorist operations were suicide bomb attacks, with most of the remainder being roadside bombs.

August 14, 2008: The Austrian government continues to negotiate with al Qaeda for the release of two Austrians snatched by Islamic terrorists in Tunisia. The kidnappers had demanded $8 million, plus several Islamic terrorists freed from jail. The government negotiators had haggled the terrorists down to a $5 million ransom. Everyone thought a deal had been made, but then one terrorist faction insisted that there be a political sweetener, like the release of some al Qaeda members being held in jail. The Austrian government has no control over that, and has been told by North African governments that no one is getting out of jail as part of a deal to ransom European tourists. The two captives are believed held in Mali. This will be a big payday for the regional al Qaeda groups, and will pay for a lot more attacks.

August 13, 2008: In the south, an oil engineer and two assistants, were released after having been kidnapped the day before by tribesmen. This was a typical tribal operation. The tribesmen were trying to get the government to release several of their kinsmen, who were in jail because of violence (a tribal feud over real estate). When the police jail tribesmen, the prisoners friends and families look for some stranger to kidnap, and trade for their imprisoned brethren.

Down south, in Mauritania, a feud between the politicians and the generals resulted in a coup last week. The military was seen as in the wrong here, and neighboring countries, as well as most foreign ones, and the UN, jumped all over the generals. Sensing they were in trouble, the generals promised new elections soon, and a return to politics. Meanwhile, the local Islamic terrorists rejoiced, as this political drama shut down much of the counter-terrorism effort.

 

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