The government also has to convince foreign companies, especially those that contribute crucial foreign technical experts to help run oil and gas operations, that it is safe. Security around the Tiguentourine was actually quite good but not good enough to keep out a large group of terrorists with inside information and a well thought out plan for getting in. Where the terrorists failed was in their belief that human shields would get them past Algerian troops. Algeria is well aware that a lot of their current problems with Islamic terrorists come from the $100 million in ransom the terrorists have collected in the last decade by kidnapping Europeans. The Algerians decided that they would rather take the heat from the West for killing Westerners used as human shields rather than allow the Islamic terrorists to gain more millions.
While the current government is corrupt, self-serving, and run by families prominent in the 1950s rebellion against France, most Algerians are not eager for more violence. There was an Islamic radical uprising in the 1990s that left over 200,000 dead. The Islamic radicals were beaten but not entirely eliminated. They have tried to maintain a presence in northern Algeria ever since, if only to support their drug smuggling operation that has kept them in business for the last decade. This involves moving cocaine from Guinea-Bissau, where it is flown in from South America, to the Mediterranean coast and thence to Europe. You can keep the police away from that with bribes but the police and army are less corruptible when it comes to Islamic terrorism. Most of the surviving Algerian Islamic terrorists operate in the desert south or outside the country (elsewhere in North Africa, Europe, and anywhere al Qaeda is active). It was no surprise to the Algerians that only one of the 32 Islamic terrorists who attacked Tiguentourine was Algerian. There aren’t that many Algerian Islamic radicals left and they are spread thin. Many have, in effect, “retired” overseas. This is especially true if they managed to get asylum in the West.
Just across the southern border in Mali, Algerians have nervously watched yet another tribal rebellion by Tuaregs. This one began a year ago and is a little different. Basically, it's all about smuggling cocaine and hashish north, through Algeria, to Europe. The drug smuggling is actually handled by Arab gangsters that are not terrorists. Al Qaeda gets paid lots of money to provide security for the drugs as they make the long run through the Sahara. The Tuareg provide local knowledge of the terrain, and people, at least in the far south. The Algerian government has long feared that the Tuareg would be tempted, by a big payday, to provide sanctuary for al Qaeda, as well as providing new recruits for Islamic terrorist operations (especially those that raise a lot of cash, like kidnapping Westerners). While the Tuareg are not fond of Islamic terrorism, young Tuareg were allowed to work with al Qaeda as hired guns. The pay was good and, until recently, not too dangerous. But the young Tuareg picked up some radical ideas from their al Qaeda bosses, and that caused some tension with tribal leaders. The mere fact that Tuareg are working for al Qaeda in southern Algeria has angered Algerian officials. Most of the 1.5 million Tuareg in the region are living in nations bordering Algeria (Burkina Faso, Libya, Mali, and Niger). Mali has faced rebellious Tuareg for decades and made peace with most of them in 2007. The current bunch of Tuareg rebels insisted that they have no connection with al Qaeda or MOJWA. That was a lie, and by last June their al Qaeda allies had turned on the Tuareg and taken control of the major towns and cities in northern Mali. The Tuareg fighters have been pushed out into the countryside and are now willing to fight the Islamic terrorists. Algeria is trying to make something of that by using contacts within Tuareg tribes to obtain intelligence on what is going on in northern Mali. On the southern border of Algeria the Sahara desert turns into the semi-desert Maghreb, a band of barely livable land stretching from the Atlantic coast to Somalia. Southern Algeria is mostly desert, the harsh Sahara. It’s not easy to cross and easy to monitor the few main roads that go from oasis to oasis.
In the last year Algeria has increased counter-terrorism and desert operations training for troops. The al Qaeda occupation of northern Mali made it clear that more Islamic terrorist operations could be expected in southern Algeria.
Algeria is still in contact with Islamic terrorists in Mali, who are demanding $57 million in ransom for nine captives (two foreign aid workers and seven Algerian diplomats). The government is not willing to pay that kind of money, which will just encourage, and subsidize, more kidnappings.
January 20, 2013: Algerian military engineers carefully search the Tiguentourine gas facilities for bombs, bodies, and surviving terrorists or workers. Three terrorists were taken alive and 30 more bodies found. Security forces rescued 685 Algerian and 107 foreign workers. The terrorists killed 37 foreigners and one Algerian. The victims included seven Japanese, six Filipinos, three Americans, three Britons, two Rumanians, and one from France. Only one of the 32 terrorists was from Algeria and one of the leaders was apparently a Canadian (of Arab ancestry and speaking English with a Canadian accent). One of the terrorists had once worked in the gas complex and provided detailed maps of the plant layout for the terrorists to work from. The plant was not destroyed because, when the terrorists first stormed in, plant security set off an alarm that enabled plant workers to shut down gas flow and prevent explosives from setting off a huge gas fed fire.
January 19, 2013: Algerian commandoes attacked the remaining terrorists, most of whom were killed. The commandos were sent in when it was believed that the terrorists were killing their remaining hostages and planning to set off explosives to destroy the plant. This, it was feared, would be cover for some of the terrorists to drive away in the darkness with some of their captives.
January 18, 2013: Algeria tries to negotiate a surrender of the surviving terrorists and their hostages. The terrorists demand that France stop fighting Islamic terrorists in Mali.
January 17, 2013: In Tiguentourine the Islamic terrorists demanded that the army, which had quickly surrounded the gas facility, withdraw. Lacking sufficient manpower to guard all their captives, many slip away. Later in the day the army attacks the residential complex, where the terrorists and their hostages are. Most of the hostages are freed, but eleven surviving terrorists move, with seven foreign workers. Some terrorists tried to drive away with hostages but were attacked by the army, making it clear that no one would leave, even with workers serving as human shields.
January 16, 2013: A group of 32 Islamic terrorists from Mali attack the Tiguentourine gas field in the southeast, 100 kilometers from the Libyan border. This facility produces ten percent of Algeria’s natural gas and is operated by over 800 Algerians and foreign workers. The terrorists first attack a bus carrying foreign workers to the local airport. Two security guards are killed as the 2 AM attack is repulsed. The terrorists, dressed in army uniforms, proceed to the gas field facilities and overwhelm security and begin seeking out foreign workers. They take several hundred Algerian and foreign workers prisoners. The plan is to grab as many foreign workers as they can and take them back to Mali, where they will be held for ransom. The foreign workers are to act as human shields to enable the terrorists to get across the heavily guarded Algerian border with Mali. To avoid that border security, the terrorists left Mali two months earlier and carefully travelled via Niger and Libya.
January 14, 2013: On the Mali border troops attacked a four wheel drive vehicle trying to sneak into Algeria. The vehicle was mounting a heavy machine-gun and the five men inside were armed with AK-47s. Troops killed three of the intruders and wounded two others as they vehicle was stopped. Algeria has a 2,000 kilometer long border with Mali.
The government announced that it will be closing its border with Mali, as the increased fighting with the Islamic terrorist groups in northern Mali is likely to drive more people north. Algeria supports the French offensive against al Qaeda and has allowed French military aircraft to fly over Algeria. French Rafael fighter-bombers can make attacks into Mali from French bases as long as they can fly through Algeria.
January 12, 2013: The leaders of Libya, Algeria, and Tunisia agreed to increase border security, intelligence sharing, and cooperation against Islamic terrorist groups. This is all in reaction to the increased al Qaeda presence in Mali.
January 11, 2013: France begins bombing al Qaeda forces in Mali. Al Qaeda goes on the web to call all their supporters to oppose this “French aggression”. France is trying to halt an al Qaeda advance into southern Mali, where 90 percent of the population lives. France has a small number of warplanes stationed in Ivory Coast, Mali, and Chad.
January 3, 2013: Two Islamic terrorists were killed 50 kilometers east of the Algerian capital. Several successful operations against Islamic terrorists in the last three days were carried out because of information obtained from two Islamic terrorists captured in late December.
January 2, 2013: Seven Islamic terrorists were killed 50 kilometers east of the capital. One of them was Izza Rezki, a senior leader (and fundraiser) in the local al Qaeda organization.
January 1, 2013: Six Islamic terrorists were killed 50 kilometers east of the capital. A large quantity of weapons was seized.
December 24, 2012: Algeria and Tunisia have agreed to increase security cooperation and are signing a formal treaty to that effect.
December 21, 2012: Troops cornered and killed four Islamic terrorists 120 kilometers south of the capital.
December 13, 2012: In neighboring Tunisia troops pursued a group of Islamic terrorists and arrested 16 of them. Also found were three terrorist training camps, apparently run by three Algerian members of al Qaeda. Documents were captured indicating this was an attempt to establish a Tunisian branch of al Qaeda.
December 10, 2012: In neighboring Tunisia soldiers clashed with a group of Islamic terrorists, leaving one soldier dead. Troops continued the pursuit and arrested eight of the terrorists.