Algeria: Seeking Sanctuary Where There Is No Signal

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October 8,2008:  There was a sharp drop in violence last month, with only one suicide bomb attack, and less than a third the terror related deaths as in August. The army and police response to the August violence apparently succeeded in capturing or killing the most active terrorist cells. For the moment, anyway. But al Qaeda is determined to revive the large scale terror campaign Islamic militants had going in Algeria a decade ago. Nearly all Algerians, however, are hostile to that idea, and have been quick to report suspected terrorist activity. This has forced the terrorists to hide out in rural areas, especially in areas where there is no cell phone coverage. As in so many other countries, the proliferation of cell phone use has proved disastrous for the terrorists. In the last eight years, the number of cell phone users in Algeria has gone from 54,000 to over 25 million. That means over 75 percent of the adult population has a cell phone, and you can get a signal in many rural areas, as well as nearly all urban ones. As was the case in Iraq, once a cell phone using population turns against the terrorists, the timely reports to police greatly increase, making it much more difficult for terrorists to move around undetected. Meanwhile, the terrorists favorite communications tool, the Internet, is not as widely established, with only four million users in Algeria. 

The drop in violence has been accompanied by continued economic growth (5.8 percent this year.)

September 28, 2008: A police search for Islamic rebels resulted in a gun battle 600 kilometers east of the capital, and the death of three terrorist suspects. There was a suicide bombing 100 kilometers east of the capital, killing three and wounding six.

September 27, 2008: Islamic terrorists manning a fake checkpoint 120 kilometers east of the capital, killed two security guards.

 

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