Algeria: Why Terrorists Hate This Place

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May 8, 2013: More ethnic violence has broken out in the south (Ghardaia, 600 kilometers south of the capital), where at least a dozen were injured in street fighting between Arabs and Berbers. There was also a religious element to the hostility as the local Berbers belong to a Shia sect. Algerians Arabs tend to be Sunni and Sunni conservatives consider Shia heretics. An increasing number of Berbers are also converting to Christianity, as a protest against the continued persecution of Berbers. This further infuriates the Sunnis. The government says that only 11,000 (out of 34 million) Algerians are Christian. But Christian religious leaders say the number is 30,000 and growing fast, especially among Berbers. The government fears these Berber Christians and Berbers in general. The Berbers, a people related to the ancient Egyptians, were the original occupants of Algeria. Arab armies conquered the country over a thousand years ago, but, unlike other Arab conquests, most Berbers did not adopt Arab language and customs. Today, about a third of Algerians are Berbers and speak the Berber language, Tamazight. There has always been tension between Berbers and Arabs, and now Berbers are demanding that their language be made one of Algeria's official languages. The Arab dominated government refuses to consider this.

In the Atlas Mountains, just across the Tunisian border, police and soldiers have been searching for about fifty Islamic terrorists who are operating near the Kasserine Pass. Tunisian security personnel are searching a hundred square kilometers of sparsely populated forests and mountains without much success. Algerian border security in that area has been increased, in case the terrorists try to flee into Algeria. This is the first time Tunisia has had to deal with armed Islamic terrorists since 2007. These armed men have been active in the area for at least six months. Some of these terrorists recently fled Mali and others are from Algeria. These were joined by a smaller group (a dozen or so) of Tunisian Islamic terrorists who had apparently not been active until joined by all these new men and a few local recruits. Eleven of the 32 terrorists killed nearby in an attack on an Algerian natural gas field in January, were Tunisian, which provided a hint that there were a lot more Islamic terrorists in Tunisia than the government wanted to admit.

The defeat of al Qaeda in Mali has sent hundreds of experienced Islamic terrorists looking for a new refuge. Algeria, because of its large and experienced counter-terrorism forces, is not seen as a suitable destination. Tunisia and Libya, on the other hand, are. Many of these Mali refugees have also gone to Europe, despite the large and alert counter-terrorism forces there.

May 5, 2013: Police attacked several hundred young people demonstrating outside parliament and demanding economic reforms that would create more jobs. Several demonstrators were arrested and dozens injured. The unemployment rate of those under 35 is over 20 percent and many who are employed don’t get paid much. The government has created a lot of pointless and low-paid government jobs that just make those getting them more eager for a real job. More jobs are not being created because of decades of government corruption and rules that discourage entrepreneurs and new businesses that would threaten those run by friends of the government. Despite this discontent, no one has been able to get large scale and persistent demonstrations going. This is partly because the police have been able to detect and disrupt attempts to organize larger protests. This is largely due to the internal intelligence services, which became larger and more effective during the anti-terrorism campaign of the 1990s, and did not “demobilize” after the terrorists were defeated a decade ago. So when the Arab Spring came along two years ago, the Algerian government was ready (which similar governments in neighboring Tunisia and Libya were not).

May 2, 2013: In the south (Chlef province) police arrested a man wearing an explosive belt and prevented a suicide bomber attack. The arrested man was recruited by al Qaeda.

April 28, 2013: An air force patrol spotted four vehicles carrying armed men crossing the Libyan border. Soldiers were sent to intercept and the resulting gun battle left five Islamic terrorists and three soldiers dead. Another ten terrorists fled into the desert and troops pursued them. This was the largest clash with Islamic terrorists since the terrorist raid on a natural gas field near the border in January.

Three local defense force volunteers were killed 70 kilometers east of the capital. The attackers were believed to be Islamic terrorists, which the 94,000 local defense force volunteers watch out for. First organized in 1994, the defense volunteers were a key element in defeating the Islamic terrorist uprising of the 1990s.

April 27, 2013: President Bouteflika suffered a mild stroke while visiting France. The 77 year old Bouteflika is one of the 1950s revolutionaries who led the battle for independence. He has been president since 1999, and has continued the post-revolution of rigged elections and corruption. This is what the Islamic radicals rebelled against in the 1990s. That uprising was defeated mainly because the Islamic radicals seemed even worse than the corrupt “old revolutionaries.” Most Algerians are still unhappy with their government but not willing to suffer through another revolution, not yet.

April 25, 2013: Two local security volunteers were wounded by a roadside bomb, 510 kilometers east of the capital.

 


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