Algeria: Tribal Business On The Border


November 17, 2016: Algeria quietly intervened to get three engineers (two Italian and one Canadian) freed in southwestern Libya, next to Algeria’s Illizi Province. Italy gave credit to Libyan officials but had gone to Algeria for help because Italy knew that Algeria had contacts and influence with the Tuareg tribes in the area where the three men were taken captive on September 19th. The kidnapping was organized by Abdellah Belakahal, an Algerian Islamic terrorist, one of many who have fled to Libya (and other African nations) after the Islamic terrorists lost their war with the Algerian government in the late 1990s. The kidnappers demanded $4.4 million in ransom. The Algerian government told Italy and Canada that they would do what they could and that apparently worked.

Algeria has long maintained good relations with tribes in the south, especially Tuareg ones that have good connections with fellow Tuareg across the border in Mali, Niger and Libya. This connection enables the security forces down there to keep watch on what is really going on in northern Mali and southern Libya. These Tuareg connections also enabled Algeria to help mediate the recent peace deal in northern Mali that ended the latest Tuareg insurrection. To maintain these good relations the Algerians have to observe tribal rules and boundaries. That means no Algerian troops entering Tuareg territory in Mali or Libya without permission from the tribal leaders involved.

The Tuareg tribal leaders on both sides of the border cooperated to get the three foreigners released, in part because the three engineers were hired by the Libyan government to restore the airport in Ghat. This is part of an effort to revive the economy in southwest Libya. AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) and similar groups survive in southern Libya because the tribes can defend themselves and their tribal territory but don’t act as a substitute for the national police or counter-terrorism forces. Islamic terrorists and smugglers can operate in tribal territories as long as they pay their way and don’t cause any trouble. Kidnapping foreigners is generally considered trouble, although tribal leaders have been known to earn a commission by helping facilitate ransom negotiations. That’s what apparently happened here.

The government can offer all manner of incentives for tribes to cooperate. This includes releasing kin or fellow tribesmen from prison (as long as it’s not a terrorism related charge). Tribal members are regularly arrested on the border, usually for smuggling. If the goods being smuggled do not include weapons or anything else Islamic terrorists require, the courts can be flexible. Smugglers with good connections to tribal chiefs are often released, but that means the tribal chief owes the government a favor. Some of those favors were cashed in to get the three captives released.

Smuggling of non-terror related items remains the most common violation along the border. Drugs, alcohol and anything that brings a profit (sometimes its consumer goods or food items) are brought across and the tribes on both sides of the border expect to get paid to allow it to happen.

Oil And Prosperity

Oil production hit record levels in October and a recent study found Algeria ranked 111th out of 149 countries when it came to prosperity. Neighboring Morocco came out 101st and Tunisia 93rd (the highest in North Africa). Tunisia remains a steadfast ally of Algeria when it comes to counter-terrorism operations.

November 16, 2016: In the far south (Tamanrasset, 2,000 kilometers south of the capital) two known Islamic terrorists surrendered to the military and brought their weapons and ammo with them.

November 14, 2016: In Sidi Bel Abbès province (370 kilometers west of the capital) troops found and destroyed nine bunkers built by Islamic terrorists for shelters and storing equipment.

November 13, 2016: In Jijel Province (365 kilometers east of the capital) the army found and destroyed six bunkers built by Islamic terrorists for shelters and storing equipment. Two bunkers were found in this area a week ago and the army continued their search.

November 12, 2016: In the north (140 kilometers southwest of the capital) Islamic terrorists set up a fake roadblock and killed three people (two soldiers and a civilian) before fleeing.

November 8, 2016: In Batna (500 kilometers east of the capital) troops arrested four civilians wanted for providing support for Islamic terrorists.

November 6, 2016: In the southwest (Adrar Province, 1.500 kilometers from the capital) soldiers found an arms cache with 22 AK-47s and other rifles plus over 200 kg (440 pounds) of ammo.

November 4, 2016: In Tizi Ouzou (120 kilometers east of the capital) additional police had to be brought in to deal with violent protests by local Berbers over perceived discrimination in allocation of government benefits (like housing). Tizi Ouzou in in the largely Berber Kabylie region. The ten million Berbers of Algeria are considered the most abused in the region. While young Berbers may be particularly angry at the decades of government corruption and mismanagement they are emblematic of the growing anger among all young Algerians and a growing number of older Algerians as well.

In Jijel Province (365 kilometers east of the capital) soldiers clashed with two Islamic terrorists and killed them. In addition to weapons and cell phones troops found the two carrying nearly $10,000 in cash.

Officials from Mali and Algeria signed 13 economic cooperation agreements. Many of these involve northern Mali, which has a population (Arab and Tuareg) and economy similar to southern Algeria. At the same time Algeria is also helping Mali create a new constitution, which incorporates elements of the Algerian laws that better deal with the Tuareg and other tribes.

October 29, 2016: In the east (Constantine province, 400 kilometers from the capital) three ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) gunmen killed a police officer in a restaurant and stole his weapon. ISIL later took credit for the attack, the first in Algeria since March. Only about fifteen ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) members have been killed this year and nearly all once belonged to AQIM, which was formed in 2007 from several of the 1990s era Algerian groups. ISIL has been largely on the defensive in Algeria this year and it is still unclear what was behind this attack on a policeman in public.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close