Algeria: Islamic Terrorists Are Down But Not Out


January 11, 2014:   In the south, there has been less Islamic terrorist activity on the Mali border in the last year and the government is publicizing this in an effort to revive the tourist industry down there. The Islamic terrorist violence in the south after 2008 saw tourism shrink dramatically (from 30,000 visitors a year to a few hundred). The government made it clear that troops are assigned to provide security for tourist sites and tourists.

Foreign firms that operate much of the Algerian oil and gas industry are still uneasy about the ability of the military to protect facilities out in the desert. The January 2013 Islamic terrorist raid on a natural gas plant near the Libyan border is blamed on poor performance by the Algerian security forces, and the government refuses to accept the assessment of the foreigners. Algeria cannot afford to expel the foreign firms and has not interfered with the foreigners upgrading their own security. In the past the government opposed the foreign firms creating their own security forces and for years that seemed to be no problem. But after the 2013 attack the foreign firms realized that the rumors of inept and corrupt military leadership were true and that they had to defend themselves or leave. They let the government know how they felt.

The security forces are not a total loss as they have been successful in destroying most Islamic terrorists in the country and keeping these groups from reviving. But the military ignored all the signs that the resurgent Islamic terrorist groups in Libya and Mali were capable of striking vulnerable Algerian oil and gas facilities in the largely desert south. The attack revealed that the military had not prepared for such an eventuality and were caught by surprise. The foreign firms believe the military has not yet come to fully appreciate the threat. The best army and police units are still in the north where most of the population lives. There is better security on the Mali border but the Libyan frontier is regularly violated by many smugglers and some of these criminals are believed to help Islamic terrorists come and go as well, if only because the terrorists pay well.

January 10, 2014: The U.S. declared Tunisian group Ansar Sharia to be international Islamic terrorists. Also designated was the group’s leader Seifallah Ben Hassine.

January 5, 2014:  Just across the border in Tunisia army artillery shelled suspected Islamic terrorist activity in the mountains near the coast. The army believes there are still about 30 Islamic terrorists hiding in the mountains. While unable to hunt these men down after more than a year of effort, the constant air and foot patrols and liberal use of artillery and air strikes on anyone spotted up in those forests and hills has kept the terrorists more concerned about their survival than plotting attacks elsewhere.

January 1, 2014: Despite threats by Islamic terrorists that they would attack New Year’s Eve celebrations in Tunisia, nothing much happened. The security forces took the threats seriously and took precautions. At least seven suspected Islamic terrorists were arrested for taking part in attack preparations.

December 30, 2013: In the Libyan city of Misrata Libyan security forces arrested Saifallah Ben Hassine, the leader of Tunisian terror group Ansar Sharia. Hassine was released from a Tunisian prison in 2011 after the revolution in an amnesty. He was serving a 43 year sentence for Islamic terrorism (he was a collaborator with Osama Bin Laden even before September 11, 2001) and he promptly resumed those activities by organizing Ansar Sharia and making attacks on politicians that opposed his goal of turning Tunisia into a religious dictatorship. Ansar Sharia is responsible for most of the Islamic terrorism in Tunisia and has openly claimed allegiance with al Qaeda. The group also operates in Libya and cooperates with similarly named (but separate) groups in Libya. Ansar Sharia claimed that their leader was not captured and it’s still uncertain if he was.

December 29, 2013: Agreements were signed with Libya to increase economic and security cooperation. Both nations will send more troops and police to their mutual border and the forces on both sides will coordinate operations more closely.

December 25, 2013: In the southern oasis town of Ghardaia violence between Arab and Berber residents over water and religion has gone on for two days. The police, who are largely Arab, are accused of being biased against the Berbers. The ethnic tensions have been active since 2008 and there was another outbreak of violence last October.

In the east (Constantine province) troops ambushed a group of Islamic terrorists and killed all three of them. Seized were three AK-47s and much else.

December 18, 2013: The United States designated Mokhtar Belmokhtar an international terrorist and that makes him liable for arrest worldwide and prohibits anyone from dealing with him. Belmokhtar is infamous for organizing the January 2013 raid on a natural gas facility in southern Algeria that got 70 people killed (including all the attackers and three American civilians). In 2013 he announced the formation of a new Islamic terrorist group ( Al Mourabitoun) that merged African Islamic terrorists (mostly from Mauritania) with the largely Algerian and other Arab men Belmokhtar had been leading. This group has also been blacklisted by the United States. Belmokhtar likes to let people believe he is invincible. That began when Belmokhtar survived fighting Russians in Afghanistan during the 1980s. After that he fought, and lost, an Islamic terrorist uprising in Algeria during the 1990s. Then he joined al Qaeda and carried out several attacks. Last year he split from al Qaeda and formed another Islamic terror group in Mali. He soon had to flee the French-led invasion of northern Mali and is now believed to be in Niger or Libya.

December 13, 2013: In the east (Tizi Ouzou province) troops killed two Islamic terrorists.





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