Algeria: Cocaine Cash Is King

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October 31, 2010: Al Qaeda has a "good news/bad news" situation in Algeria. The good news, for the terrorists, is that their southern (Sahara desert) faction, led by Abdelhamid Abu Zeid (the "emir of the south") has struck it rich with kidnapping Europeans and guarding cocaine shipments to Europe. This flood of cash is buying protection in the south (tribes and government officials can be bribed) and more resources for terror attacks in the north (where most Algerians live, along the Mediterranean coast). The bad news (for the terrorists) is that all this money breeds corruption within the terrorist organization as well. This has always been a problem with al Qaeda, especially when there was a lot of money available. Moslem, and especially Arab, countries are very corrupt, and the terrorist organizations these cultures spawn are no different. This despite the fact that Islamic radicals preach the elimination of corruption. Many of those who preach this, are unable, or unwilling, to practice it when temptation comes along. Al Qaeda in the Sahel is bringing in over $5 million a year. The few hundred al Qaeda down there are hiring more gunmen, and trying to convert these guys to the cause. But the tribesmen down there are wary of these fanatic city boys from the north. They take the money and keep the Islamic terrorists at a distance.

The U.S. and France are trying to discreetly help Algeria, Mali, Niger and Mauritania deal with the problems al Qaeda has introduced. As outlaws, al Qaeda is hostile to all these local governments. If al Qaeda were not concentrating on its drug and kidnapping business, it would be trying to overthrow these governments and impose a religious dictatorship. But this did not work in Algeria, and it definitely would not work with these Sahel (the semi-desert region between the Sahara and the tropical grasslands and jungles to the south) nations. The Sahel states are more diverse and less well organized. And they are generally hostile to al Qaeda, and even some of the rebellious tribes give the Islamic terrorist groups a hard time. But money, guns and religious fanaticism are a potent combination. France and the U.S. are providing aerial and electronic surveillance to find out exactly where al Qaeda is hiding, while both nations also provide training for local troops, as well as new equipment. The U.S. and France would like to send their own commandos in to do the job, but this is very unpopular with the local governments, which are all Islamic and fundamentally hostile to non-Moslem soldiers operating in their midst. The Sahel has always been a frontier area, thinly populated and lightly ruled. Cash and guns gives you a lot more power and freedom-of-action in frontier areas than in more densely populated, and heavily policed places like northern Algeria.

Islam is the state religion of Algeria, although freedom to practice other religions is supposed to be guaranteed. This is not enough for many Islamic conservatives in the government. There have been an increasing number of prosecutions of Moslems, and non-Moslems, for religious offenses. Recently, a Moslem man was sentenced to two years in prison for breaking the Ramadan fast last August. Each year, there is a month long period (Ramadan) where Moslems are supposed to fast during daylight. In some Moslem countries, police punish those who do not observe the fast. In Algeria, Christians have been prosecuted for not fasting during Ramadan, although higher courts have ruled against these convictions. Algeria, like all Islamic nations, has its religious conservatives. These are usually a large minority of the population, and the government often accommodates the conservatives in an attempt to prevent the appearance of Islamic radicals and terrorists. But because the Internet and satellite TV now provides Islamic radicals propaganda and connections, this accommodation approach no longer seems to work.

October 30, 2010: A roadside bomb killed a soldier and wounded two others, some 120 kilometers east of the capital.

October 25, 2010: Just outside the capital, a roadside bomb killed two soldiers and wounded three others. Nearby, another such bomb was found and disarmed.

October 12, 2010: A bomb went off in a town near the Tunisian border, leaving five government officials who had come to inspect a building project (new ho

 

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