Algeria: All Quiet On The Eastern Front

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June 20, 2015: Islamic terrorism remains a problem but a declining one. There are still a few hundred Islamic terrorists operating in the country but they are not split into AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) and ISIL (Islamic empire run by ISIL). AQIM factions that join ISIL become a lot more violent and hostile towards al Qaeda. Small groups of AQIM have been hiding out in the coastal mountains east of the capital for years and troops and police are constantly searching the thinly populated mountains and forests of these coastal provinces. This limits the mobility of both Islamic terrorist groups and reduces their ability to attack the security forces or each other.

The results of Algerian counter-terrorism efforts can be seen in the list of the top ten nations (in terms of their "Terrorism Risk"). For most of the last decade this list has included Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Lebanon, India, Algeria, Colombia, and Thailand. More important is the fact that in most of these places the risk is confined to small parts of the countries. In Algeria it’s the eastern coastal mountains. Some (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia) countries have long suffered high numbers (several thousand a year) of terrorism related deaths. The major factor for the ranking is the amount of terrorism mayhem going on in the nation. For example Lebanon didn't suffer that many deaths, but it's potential for large scale terrorism grew because of the thousands of rockets, and other weapons, Iran has shipped in to its proxy; Hezbollah. India has several terrorist groups operating, most of them non-Moslem, and the resulting violence led to over a thousand deaths in 2014. Then again, that's in a nation of over a billion people (Iraq has 25 million). Algeria, Colombia and Thailand are still considered “terrorism hotspots” but terrorist violence in all three has been declining.

June 18, 2015: In Algeria officials met with the commander of AFRICOM to discuss cooperation with American efforts to deal with Islamic terrorism in North Africa and especially Libya. While Egypt has expressed some interest in intervening militarily in Libya, Algeria is not and is something of a veto to any such intervention.

June 17, 2015: Al Qaeda announced that their second-in-command in Libya, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, was not killed by a recent American air strike. Mokhtar Belmokhtar (the planner of the January 2013 natural gas facility attack in southern Algeria that got 37 workers killed) has survived several attempts to kill him and has a reputation for being elusive. He survived such attacks in 2013 and 2014. Belmokhtar is elusive within AQIM as well. He split from the organization in 2012 and founded another Islamic terrorist group (Al Mourabitoun). After about two years of this he rejoined AQIM but did not disband Al Mourabitoun. For over two years Al Mourabitoun has been operating from a base in southern Libya and found operating in northern Mali and Niger. The U.S. is offering a $5 million reward for information that would lead to the death or capture of Belmokhtar. AQIM admits the death of seven Islamic terrorists during the American attack and named them. In Libya the Tobruk government forces are cooperating with Americans to confirm if Belmokhtar is alive or dead and that may take weeks.

June 16, 2015: Southern neighbor Mali signed a peace deal with Tuareg rebels. These Tuareg rebels and Islamic terrorists (from Mali and neighboring countries) took over most of northern Mali in 2012 and remained in control until a 2013 French-led invasion restored government control. Most of the Islamic terrorists were killed or fled to Libya and Niger. Algeria beefed up its security on its Mali border and hosted several rounds of peace negotiations between the government and the rebels. Not all rebels signed the peace deal and some are still fighting.

June 15, 2015: Next door in Tunisia three clashes with Islamic terrorists (one near the Algerian border) left four policemen and one Islamic terrorist dead.

June 12, 2015: In Tripoli gunmen stormed into the Tunisian consulate and seized ten Tunisian consular staff. Three of them were freed three days later and negotiations continue to release the other seven. The kidnappers apparently belong to a local militia that is trying to get one of their leaders out of jail. Kidnappings like this are still common, which is one reason why most diplomats have left Tripoli. Now the Tunisians are following suit as are several other nations.

June 8, 2015: Officials from Egypt, Algeria and Italy met in Egypt to discuss improving cooperation in dealing with Islamic terrorists and illegal immigration. Most of the terrorism and illegal migration is coming out of Libya and this has had a major impact on Egypt, Algeria and Italy which are also trying to mediate a settlement to the civil war going on in Libya. Italy and its NATO allies have deployed dozens of warships off the Libyan coast while Egypt and Algeria have kept increasing forces on their Libyan borders for more than a year.

June 7, 2015: AQIM took credit for two terrorist attacks a week ago that killed an army commander and four local defense volunteers. Both attacks took place 500 kilometers east of the capital (Batna), an area that has long been a refuge for Islamic terrorists.

June 3, 2015: Algeria hosted another round of peace talks between the two main factions (rival governments based in Tripoli and Tobruk) in Libya. Several other factions are also represented. Algeria has been hosting these talks since the beginning of the year but progress has been slow.

 

 

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