French counter-terrorism commanders believe that the 78 year old Frenchman al Qaeda claims to have kidnapped, and recently killed, actually died of a heart problem. The French are trying to find the body, and the al Qaeda men who were holding the hostage. France has been quietly assisting in the battle against al Qaeda in the Sahel region (semi-desert land just south of the Sahara) for years. But now that assistance will be greater and more public. The U.S. has also been assisting, but not with troops. America has provided training, weapons and equipment.
The Algerian government is having a harder time hiding incidents of corruption among members of the ruling party, and their families. Favoritism (for jobs and contracts) and outright theft are increasingly spotlighted via the growing number of people with cell phones and Internet access. Even newspapers are reporting more of this, much to the discomfort of the government.
July 27, 2010: Mauritania has mobilized thousands of police and soldiers to tighten control of its Algerian and Mali border crossings. This is in reaction to rumors and intel reports of increased al Qaeda activity in the area.
France declared war on al Qaeda forces operating along Algeria's southern border. This is in response to the al Qaeda murder of a French aid worker two days ago. Al Qaeda said this was in retaliation for a French led attack on an al Qaeda camp on the 22nd. The 78 year old Frenchman was kidnapped four months ago in Niger, then taken to Mali and moved around after that to avoid rescue. The terrorists were demanding the release of imprisoned terrorists, and threatened to kill the hostage by next week if the demands were not met. France had no intention of releasing any terrorists, as that would just encourage more kidnappings.
July 25, 2010: In eastern Algeria, near the coast, a suicide bomber attack against a police station only killed the bomber and a security guard. Al Qaeda took credit for the attack.
In Mali, French assisted local forces ended a four day operation against elusive al Qaeda groups in the border areas. At least 150 al Qaeda are believed operating in Mali, in a dozen or more different groups.
July 22, 2010: In Mauritania, local troops, assisted by French forces, attacked an al Qaeda camp near the Mali border. Six terrorists were killed and considerable equipment and documents were captured. This was an attempt to rescue a French aid worker who had been taken prisoner four months earlier.
July 21, 2010: Aircraft were seen circling a remote part of the Mali-Niger border, and gunfire was heard. This was apparently a military operation against al Qaeda groups trying to maintain bases in the area.