Al Qaeda has proclaimed the formation of a new chapter south of Algeria, among tribal rebels and disaffected urbanites in Niger, Mali, Chad and Mauritania. This is more PR than reality. There are some Islamic terrorists in the region, and these pronouncements appear to be an attempt to unify pro-Islamic terrorist elements via the Internet and the mass media. So far, the many disaffected groups in the region have shown little interest in uniting. Too many different objectives, and al Qaeda has a reputation for being a loser.
Political violence left 20 dead in March, compared to 33 in February. It's expected that there will be more violence this month, because of the April 9 presidential election. Al Qaeda attempts to disrupt the elections with violence were energetic, but ineffective.
April 9, 2009: President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was re-elected for the third time with 90.24 percent of the vote. Some 74 percent of the 20 million registered voters cast a ballot. Bouteflika presides over a police state run by families that were active in the liberation movement that freed Algeria, in the 1960s, from over a century of French colonial rule. Free elections were first allowed in 1989, but that resulted in an Islamic party winning, and proposing that Algeria be turned into a religious dictatorship, in order to deal with the widespread corruption and incompetent bureaucrats. The government refused to accept these election results, so the Islamic radicals turned to violence and terror. Throughout the 1990s, the violence killed over 200,000 (mostly civilians killed by the terrorists). The population gradually turned on the Islamic radicals, and the government counter-terrorist tactics shut down the Islamic radical movement. Remnants of the 1990s Islamic radical movement fight on as an al Qaeda franchise.
The surviving terrorists have fled to the coastal hills east of the capital, the Sahara desert far to the south, Europe and Iraq. Those who went to Iraq tended to get killed quickly. Those who went to Europe got on welfare and either retired from terrorism, or continued to plan new attacks (and get caught and jailed for it). Those who fled to the hills and desert turned to banditry (robbery, extortion and kidnapping) to survive. Three years ago, these Islamic radicals declared that they had merged with al Qaeda. This was largely cosmetic, as al Qaeda was taking a beating in Iraq, and elsewhere around the world. There was a brief revival of terror attacks in Algeria, but that has since been declining. Meanwhile, the tyranny and economic mismanagement throughout the Islamic world continues to produce young men willing to kill for change. About 100,000 Algerians immigrate (usually illegally to Europe) each year.
The remaining Islamic radicals in Algeria managed to set off six bombs on election day, killing one policeman. Foreign election observers declared that the election was free and fair. However, Algeria is still basically a one party state, and the state backed the 72 year old Bouteflika for a third, five year, term. The five other candidates were little known because the state controlled media ignored them. Several political parties (particularly the leftists and Islamic ones) boycotted the vote. Bouteflika promised to create three million new jobs for the many unemployed young (18-30s) men, but few believe he can do this. The economy is still dominated by party hacks and those who are favored for their loyalty to the president, not their business acumen. This is typical of the Middle East, where tyrants run efficient police states even when they declare their nations democracies. This one party rule is invariably corrupt, and mainly interested in hanging onto political, and economic, control of the nation. A medieval monarchy by any other name. The opposition from Islamic radicals is also nothing new, and has long been present to oppose inept rulers. The Islamic radicals usually fail, for the same reasons they are failing today (they are better at praying and killing than in running a government, especially a police state.)
April 3, 2009: Troops ambushed a group of Islamic terrorists 120 kilometers east of the capital, killing one and capturing seven. This operation is part of a major army effort to find several groups of Islamic terrorists known to be operating along the coasts. There have been several terrorists taking advantage of the amnesty lately, and some of these men had extensive knowledge of terrorist camps in the coastal forests and mountains east of the capital.
April 2, 2009: A clash with terrorists 240 kilometers east of the capital left one policeman dead and four wounded.
March 31, 2009: The army interrupted a weapons pickup by a large (three dozen or more) al Qaeda group, 800 kilometers east of the capital. At least one terrorist was killed, but most of them got away.
March 30, 2009: Six al Qaeda members were killed, and three captured, 510 kilometers south of the capital. First there was a clash with an army unit, followed by warplanes hitting the three terrorist vehicles trying to flee. The army is still chasing some of the terrorists who escaped into the mountains.
March 28, 2009: Al Qaeda is demanding the release of twenty Algerian, Mauritanian and Moroccan Islamic terrorists held in prisons throughout the region, in return for six Western captives the terrorists have taken (or bought from bandits) in the last few months. The Westerners are apparently being held in Mali.