Algeria: Seeking Immunity

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July 7, 2016: During all of 2015 security forces killed 157 Islamic terrorists. So far this year counter-terror operations have killed about a hundred Islamic terrorists. Only about ten were ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) while the rest belonged to AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb), which was formed in 2007 from several of the 1990s era Algerian groups. AQIM now operates throughout northern and west-central Africa. Because AQIM leadership still contains a lot of Algerians the Algerian government has been helpful to African nations where AQIM is operating. AQIM now spends most of its time smuggling drugs, people and whatever else pays. They still carry out some terror attacks, if only to remain competitive with ISIL, which is trying to displace (or absorb) AQIM and other Islamic terrorist groups in Africa.

Neither AQIM nor ISIL are growing in Algeria. This can be seen from information (documents, interrogations) obtained during counter-terror operations this year. It could also be seen from the large quantity of weapons (over 600 rifles and machine-guns, plus mortars, RPGs, grenades) and bomb making materials found in over 250 bunkers and other rural hiding places. Over 120 Islamic terrorists were taken alive this year and are being prosecuted, some for crimes (murder and kidnapping) committed years ago. Over the years intel gained from captured documents and interrogations has revealed names of active Islamic terrorists and what crimes they were known to have committed. This year, for example, most of the men responsible for the kidnapping and murder of a French hiker in 2014 were captured or killed.

Algerian intel also noted a trend among Islamic terrorists killed or captured this year. More of them are foreigners, Islamic terrorists from other countries (Mali, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and beyond) who have come to find a degree of sanctuary in Algeria. Some of these Islamic terrorists were found to be planning spectacular attacks in Algeria and some of these aborted plans were publicized. Not just to reassure Algerians but to convince Islamic terrorists in the region that Algeria was a bad place for them to visit. Algeria wants to be a country Islamic terrorists avoid. That does not make a nation immune to Islamic terrorism but does greatly decrease Islamic terrorist activity. Morocco has long been one of the places Islamic terrorists prefer to avoid and, despite the pro-Israel attitudes of its government, suffers little from Islamic terrorism. Tunisia is headed in the same direction, despite the fact that several thousand of its young men have gone off to join Islamic terrorist groups in Libya and elsewhere in the region. Few Tunisian Islamic terrorists have been able to come home and carry out attacks. Countries like Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria have populations that are actively hostile to Islamic terrorism and that gives the security forces a major advantage in killing or capturing Islamic terrorists before they can carry out any attacks. In most Moslem majority nations the locals have done the math and noted that most of the victims of the Islamic terrorists are ordinary Moslems the Islamic terrorists say they are trying to help. Most Islamic terrorist groups, including ISIL, advise their members to avoid killing innocent Moslems but it’s difficult to do that and carry out attacks.

More and more of the Algerian counter-terror effort is being directed at border security. This keeps Islamic terrorists out, as well as the smugglers who bring in weapons. But most of the illegal activity on the borders involves smugglers bringing in other contraband (drugs, illegal migrants, consumer goods). For the security forces, that is good because these smugglers are less likely to shoot back if confronted by soldiers or police. Most smugglers are armed to defend themselves from bandits who prey on smugglers.

While the economy is doing well and the declining Islamic terrorist activity is bringing in more foreign investment Algeria is still a corrupt police state. The government shuts down mass media (especially radio or TV stations) that spend too much time covering the various corrupt scams the wealthy and well-connected can still get away with. Officially the government is addressing the corruption problem but what is noticed most are efforts to suppress discussions of the corruption that still flourishes.

June 29, 2016: The government apparently leaked details of a successful effort to disrupt an ISIL plot to bomb a shopping mall in the southeast (Setif, 300 kilometers from the capital) during the holy month of Ramadan. This plot was foiled because much of the counter-terrorism effort this year has been around Setif and in May eight members of the ISIL group planning the attack were encountered and killed. The subsequent investigation of who they were (part of a group based in Libya) and what they were up to revealed the identities of some of the others involved in planning the mall attack.

June 24, 2016: The government turned the Internet back on after a blackout that began on the 18th to deal with a major high school final exams cheating scandal. The Internet and cell phones have made it easier to cheat and now this was happening on a mass scale which invalidated the purpose of the exams and made the results worthless in determining who could get into university, especially one outside Algeria. Some Algerians saw the Internet shutdown as a government effort to test extreme Internet censorship techniques. It was noted that experienced Internet users could get around the shutdown but most of the 20 million Algerian Internet users took the loss of network access as a personal affront. Some 80 percent of Algerian Internet users access the web via cell phones.

Just across the border in Morocco local security forces found and dismantled a group of ten ISIL members trying to establish a base. Despite decades of political and border disputes Morocco and Algeria have been cooperating more on counter-terror issues.

June 19, 2016: In the south (Medea province, 90 kilometers from the capital) soldiers continuing a counter-terror operation in the area killed 14 Islamic terrorists in several clashes and found more hiding places and weapons and other equipment stored there. Operations in Media province have been going on for weeks as one find (dead or live Islamic terrorists as well as documents found) leads to another. Locals were willing to offer information as they noted the number of veteran Islamic terrorists taken down. With fewer of these killers around to retaliate against talkative civilians the locals can help clear out the remaining terrorists.

 

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