The government keeps pounding the Islamic radicals, but can't seem to destroy them completely. In the last six months, 120 Islamic terrorists were killed, 22 surrendered and 322 were arrested. Over 150 weapons were seized, along with bombs and bomb making materials. In the last four years, about 2,000 Islamic radicals have accepted the amnesty program. But nearly as many have been killed, captured or fled the country. Most of the current action is east of the capital, in the forests of the coastal mountains. There are apparently only a few hundred Islamic radicals still active, most of them in the coastal mountains, with a few dozen in the south and as many in the capital. There are 160,000 security personnel in the country, a force that is being expanded to 200,000 this year. The police force not only keeps the pressure on the Islamic radicals, but keeps the lid on a restive population, unhappy with decades of corrupt and inept government. The elderly anti-French rebels are apparently going to succeed in buying yet another election next month. But it gets more difficult each time.
The Islamic terrorists are trying to use suicide bombings to trigger a widespread uprising. To that end, the rebels establish bases near the capital and stage attacks from there. The police recently located and raided a rebel base fifty kilometers south of the city. There were several dozen Islamic terrorists operating out of that location, planning attacks in the capital. Most of the rebels were killed, captured or scattered. The rebel camps are often found when police capture rebels out foraging for food or other supplies. Interrogation eventually reveals the location of the camp, and a raid follows. The rebels try to move the camps regularly, but this also exposes the rebels to exposure. Local civilians in rural areas are not all fans of the Islamic rebels, and lots of the country folks now have cell phones. But the Islamic terrorists still have lots of supporters. With so much unemployment (over a third of men 18-30 are out of work), there are plenty of recruits, so many that the terrorists can be selective. There's not much money, with Persian Gulf governments finally cracking down on the wealthy patrons of Islamic radical causes. So the Algerian terrorists have to live off criminal activity and donations from locals. If there were more money, the Islamic radical groups could maintain a larger force. If the current dictatorship were overthrown and replaced by an honest government, the Islamic radicals would suffer a major blow at the grassroots level. But such a development is highly unlikely.
President Abdelaziz Bouteflika declared that over half a billion dollars in agricultural loans would be forgiven. Farmers and livestock operators need the loans to finance crops and herds, especially after a year of bad harvests. Forgiving years of these loans will be very popular among rural voters, who go to the polls next month to elect, or re-elect, the president and other officials. The official reason for forgiving the loans was to boost agricultural production, and this is expected to happen as well. However, Bouteflika recently persuaded (and, apparently, bribed or threatened where necessary) parliament to eliminate the two terms restriction for presidents. First elected in 1999, Bouteflika wants a third term. Bouteflika represents the "rebels" (the men who fought the French colonial government half a century ago) who have ruled the country since independence in the 1960s. The "rebels" (and their extended families) are the establishment now. They have the power, and the oil income, and they don't want to give it up. Most Algerians want all the rebels gone.
February 28, 2009: The government refused to allow France or Britain to use Algerian air space in the south, to search for six Westerners (including a Canadian diplomat) kidnapped by al Qaeda. Algeria claimed that allowing Western aircraft and commandos into Algeria would be an insult to national sovereignty. The Algerians are apparently looking for a suitable bribe to look the other way and allow the search.