Algeria: Al Qaeda Smuggling Operation Busted

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February26, 2007: Tunisian police believe that al Qaeda has moved its headquarters from Algeria to Tunisia. There have been more arrests of Islamic terrorists in Tunisia lately, and the Tunisian population is not as alert to, and hostile towards, Islamic terrorists as most Algerians are. Terrorists are finding another danger in Algeria, the growing use of cell phones. While seemingly a boost for terrorists, in practice, cell phones make it much easier for a hostile population to turn in terrorists, and to alert police to terrorist operations in progress. Two years ago, there were only 50,000 cell phone users in Algeria, now there are 21 million. Cell phones have figured in several recent successful counter-terror operations.

February 25, 2007: Algerian police have rounded up 27 men responsible for a cache of weapons (165 shotguns, 995 rounds of ammo, and $36,000 in cash) found in the port of Constantine on February 11. The weapons were, as suspected, brought into the country by al Qaeda. While 24 of those arrested were Algerians, it was a Tunisian man who financed the operation. A Frenchman drove the weapons into the country, hidden inside his recreational vehicle. Police have identified another 14 members of the smuggling ring, who are still at large. The weapons smuggling operations earlier brought bomb making materials into the country.

February 21, 2007: Morocco has launched a manhunt for two members of al Qaeda, which in North Africa is now run by Algerians. Meanwhile, Algeria succeeded in brokering a peace deal between its southern neighbor, and the Tuareg tribes of Mali. The Tuareg, distant cousins of the ancient Egyptians, have maintained their nomadic culture, and sense of independence, for thousands of years. But in the 20th century, they came under tremendous pressure to respect national borders, and obey national (not just tribal) laws. The Mali Tauregs agreed to give up many of their weapons, and obey the law. This denies Islamic terrorists some potential allies, as tribal rebels have often helped out Islamic radicals.

 

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