Algeria: Syrians Sneak In From Libya


September 10, 2014: While it’s been a month since the last Islamic terrorism related fatality in Algeria there was an even more ominous death on August 23 rd . That was when a football (soccer) player from Cameroon was killed by a piece of slate thrown at him by some angry Algerian football fans after a game in the largely Berber Kabylie region. While the young Berbers may be particularly angry at the decades of government corruption and mismanagement they are emblematic of the increasing anger among all young Algerians and a growing number of older Algerians as well. International football officials threatened to ban Algerian fans from international games if this anger did not diminish, at least at the games. That may or may not happen, but the incident was another signal to the government that a growing number of Algerians are abandoning forbearance and demonstrating more outright anger and violence towards rigged elections and government inability to address national problems, especially lack of economic opportunity and high unemployment.

The Libyan border remains closed and despite that Libyan Islamic terrorists and smugglers are still trying to move people and goods in and out. The increased border security recently led to the discovery of a Libyan Islamic terrorist group that had turned to people smuggling. Some 200 Syrians were arrested near the Libyan border, along with the Libyans they had paid to get them to the Algerian coast and onto a boat that would take them to Europe and salvation via refugee status. This smuggling has become big business and most of it was coming via Libya because there the border security was the weakest in North Africa. But now the Libyan coast is more heavily patrolled and many Libyan coastal towns are unsafe because of the militia violence. So Algeria becomes an attractive conduit for the smuggling, despite better border security and policing in general.

Algerian police have also discovered another people smuggling operation, apparently related to the one that gets economic refugees to Europe. This one involved recruiting young men fighting for ISIL in Syria and moving them to Libya for more terrorist training and then through Algeria to southern Europe (as refugees) to carry out terror attacks. In some cases the terrorists are accompanied by wives and children. Police arrested 160 Syrians believed associated with this network.

September 5, 2014: Italy delivered an 8,800 ton amphibious transport ship (LPD) Algeria ordered in 2011. The ship has a floodable dock for landing craft and a flight deck for helicopters. There are also hospital facilities. The crew has been training in Italy since 2013. Most Algerians live along the coast and this ship would be useful for disaster relief as well as military uses.

September 3, 2014: Algeria and Tunisia have agreed to a joint energy exploration efforts as well as supplying border towns on the other side with natural gas where appropriate.

September 2, 2014: The United States is providing Tunisia with $60 million worth of military aid. Tunisia needs the equipment, weapons and training this aid will provide. The U.S. believes that Tunisia has been the most successful of the “Arab Spring” revolutions and that its post-revolution government has been one of the more successful in fighting Islamic terrorists. The U.S. has also agreed to sell Tunisia a dozen UH-60 helicopters and other military equipment. But what the Tunisians really want is American help in finding (with intel analysis, air recon or whatever) the few remaining Islamic terrorists operating in Tunisia. While it was the first country to carry out an Arab Spring uprising and a new Tunisian government was installed in 2012 there has been some persistent Islamic terrorist activity. In part this was due to the new government allowing Islamic radicals to be released from jail and permitted to operate in the open as long as they did not turn to terrorism or anything illegal inside Tunisia. These radicals have tried, so far without success, to get the new government to establish a religious dictatorship that would enforce Islamic (Sharia) law. After less than a year of good behavior the local Islamic terrorists also got violent. So far the terrorists have had a hard time. Most of the population is hostile to them and the security forces are pretty efficient. Algeria has helped by sealing its border but the long border with Libya is another matter.

September 1, 2014: The second foreign firm (Norwegian Statoil) that ran the Amenas gas plant in the southeast has agreed to return to its operations there. The British firm BP returned earlier this year. A 2013 Islamic terrorist attack on the plant greatly reduced production. The plant normally produces 11-12 percent of Algeria’s natural gas, most of which is exported. Before the attack the two foreign firms operating the plant had planned an expansion but that is still on hold because of the 2013 attack and the belief that the government has not upgraded security enough. BP and Statoil now agree that Algeria has upgraded its security sufficiently to allow both firms to resume full operations, including plans for expansion. This is important for Algeria because the Amenas attack led foreign companies to back away from investing in Algerian oil or gas projects. As a result Algerian oil and gas production were down nine percent for the first three months of 2014 and revenue from that was down 12 percent.

A court sentenced a Mauritanian man to prison for two years for taking videos of a policeman stealing. The policeman was never arrested for the crime. Incidents like this are what fuel growing public anger towards the government.

Just across the border six armed men failed in an attempt to kill a secular member of the Tunisian parliament. Three of the gunmen forced their way into the house while three others stood guard outside. After it was clear that their target had escaped and police alerted the six fled towards the Kasserine Pass area, which is a known hideout for Islamic terrorists. Secular Tunisian politicians have been frequent targets of Islamic terrorist death squads.

August 30, 2014:  Niger has allowed the United States to establish a surveillance base in the north, where Niger has borders with Algeria, Libya and Chad. This area has long been a key transit route through the Sahara Desert and is heavily used by smugglers and Islamic terrorists. The United States has been operating UAVs out of Niger for several years now.  

In Mali Islamic terrorists released two of the three Algerian diplomats taken captive there in April 2012. It was also learned that the third captive had died of an illness. In April 2014 a video of one of the captives was released, and that was the first message from the kidnappers since January 2013. Originally seven Algerians were taken but since then three have been released and one killed. There has been no direct contact with the kidnappers since a French led invasion of northern Mali in January 2013. It was believed the Islamic terrorists holding the Algerians were on the run and it was hoped that the French would find and free them. That apparently did not happen and in April those holding one of the Algerians felt secure enough to resume demanding ransom. The government said it did not want to pay ransom, so as not to encourage more such attacks. It is unclear exactly how the two were freed and all Mali will say was that it was after extensive negotiations. This seems to indicate that one of the northern Tuareg tribes came to be holding the captives and arranged their release for some favors, or to avoid a raid by French commandos.

August 24, 2014: In Egypt the foreign ministers of Libya, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Sudan, Chad and Niger met to discuss what to do about the growing chaos (and apparent civil war) in Libya. About the only thing everyone could agree on was to not get involved. Egypt proposed forming an armed intervention force and soon discovered that no one else was interested.

August 23, 2014: In Germany the government agreed to allow Algeria to buy 980 Fuchs armored vehicles from a German firm. These are six wheeled armored vehicles similar to the American Stryker. Wheeled armored vehicles are more suitable for Algeria, which has lots of roads or trackless deserts that allow wheeled vehicles to operate effectively. The deal involves setting up a factory in Algeria to assemble the vehicles and the transfer of some manufacturing technology to Algeria. Exports like these require government approval in Germany and sometimes, when the exports are to a Middle Eastern country, there is opposition because the weapons might be used by the buyer to hurt civilians. 




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