The West is pressuring Algeria to be more assertive and less conciliatory with Islamic radicals. Even with all the Algerian Islamic terrorists operating in Mali and last month’s attack on their natural gas facility, Algeria continues to resist cooperating with regional counter-terrorism efforts and still allows Islamic radicals (who have renounced violence) to operate openly. Some of these tame Islamic radicals have gone feral and shown up in Mali and in other Islamic terrorist strongholds. Algeria believes there are advantages to keeping the enemy close, despite some recent setbacks.
Algeria is proud of their victory over an Islamic rebellion in the 1990s, even though diehard extremists continue to operate. It's been eight years since the peace and amnesty deal with terrorists went into effect. Since then over 8,000 Islamic terrorists accepted the amnesty and surrendered, and over 2,000 who continued to fight were killed. The Islamic radical groups appeared to be on their way to extinction, when they were rescued by a shift in cocaine distribution networks (that now goes Across the Atlantic from South America to Guinea Bissau in West Africa and overland to the Mediterranean coast). The new route provided al Qaeda with a lucrative opportunity to earn cash guarding the drug shipments and get close to smugglers in the region. This provided contacts and access to illegal weapons. West Africa has become a new playground for the Islamic terrorists and that enables them to keep operations going further to the north in Algeria and west in Mali. The West and many of the neighbors criticize Algeria for their soft approach to the Islamic terrorists in the region. This, however, is largely driven by local politics. Most Algerians are not eager for more violence. There was an Islamic radical uprising in the 1990s that left over 200,000 dead. The Islamic radicals were beaten but not entirely eliminated.
Most of the surviving Algerian Islamic terrorists operate in the desert south or outside the country (elsewhere in North Africa, Europe, and anywhere al Qaeda is active). There aren’t that many Algerian Islamic radicals left and they are spread thin. Many have, in effect, “retired” overseas. This is especially true if they managed to get asylum in the West. But there are still thousands of them out there, including the “retired” ones. These guys still support the cause and some have been coming out of retirement.
Western and Algerian intelligence efforts indicate that Islamic terrorists in the region see last month’s attack in Algeria and the Mali operations as a success and are planning more such efforts. Islamic terrorists have long had a flexible definition of victory. Despite this, Algeria still refuses to send troops outside the country (as in Mali) or allow foreign forces to operate inside Algeria. Even many senior Algerian officials admit this was a mistake because their troops were not trained well enough to avoid many foreigners being killed during the January attack on a natural gas facility in the south. Western nations continue pressuring Algeria to accept help, if only to better defend themselves.
Western intelligence agencies are telling Algeria, and Libya, that there are a lot of Islamic terrorists operating in southern Libya and it will be from there that more attacks will be launched on Algerian, Libyan, and Tunisian gas and oil facilities. American intelligence also found some Islamic terrorists who were involved in both last month’s attack in southern Algeria and the one in Libya (Benghazi) last September that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya.
French warplanes and commandos are searching for seven French citizens who were kidnapped in the last few years and are being held in Mali near the Algerian border. French warplanes have found and bombed some of the al Qaeda camps in the area.
While most Western nations are now warning their citizens to stay out of Algeria, Japan needs the Algerian oil and is seeking ways to make it safer for its citizens to work in Algeria. This will include more intelligence gathering efforts. This has to be done in cooperation with the Algerians, who are inclined to help because Japan is now the major Western nation willing to let its oil specialists remain in Algeria.
The government has ordered troops to deploy around oil facilities, especially those using foreign workers. More armed civilian guards are being hired for this. Before last month’s attack on a natural gas facility, most of the oil and gas operations in the south had unarmed security forces. There were always armed troops and police nearby but now the gates and grounds will be handled by armed men.
The lack of foreign workers is going to hurt oil and gas production. Another casualty of all the violence in the south, and the al Qaeda call for more kidnapping of Westerners, is a decline in foreign tourism. In 2011, there were 1,807 foreign tourists visiting the southern deserts. That’s several million dollars going to a very poor part of the country. But last year tourist visits fell by 64 percent to 643. This year it is expected to decline even more sharply.
February 6, 2013: Near the Libyan border (some 540 kilometers southeast of the capital), about 50 Islamic terrorists attacked an army base. With the assistance of warplanes and attack helicopters the attack was defeated and at least two of the attackers (apparently from Libya) were killed. The army pursued the attackers and captured one of them alive.
February 5, 2013: Border guards were ordered to shoot on sight anyone seen trying to sneak across the border.
February 4, 2013: In Mali Tuareg tribesmen seized two Islamic terrorist leaders who were trying to get to the Algerian border. One of the men (Mohamed Moussa Ag Mohamed) was in charge of enforcing Sharia (Islamic) law in Timbuktu and was one of three top leaders of Malian Islamic terror group Ansar Dine. He ordered attacks that caused considerable damage to holy places and ancient artifacts the Islamic radicals considered heretical. The other leader taken was Oumeini Ould Baba Akhmed, who planned and carried out at least one kidnapping operation (to grab Westerners).
January 30, 2013: The government has agreed to increase intelligence sharing and military cooperation with Britain. This is partly to improve counter-terrorism efforts and partly to get British oil workers back to work in Algeria.
January 29, 2013: Tunisia has sent more troops to guard oil and gas facilities in the south, near the Algerian border.
January 27, 2013: Islamic terrorists attacked a natural gas pipeline 125 kilometers southeast of the capital, killing two guards. The attackers were repulsed.