Algeria: The All Around Border Blues

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November 25, 2011:  In the south, Niger, Mauritania and Mali complain that Algeria, which has much larger armed forces than their southern neighbors, is not pulling its weight in the battle against al Qaeda. The Islamic terrorists have established bases in Mali, often defended by trenches and landmines. These bases are usually shared with local gangsters. Al Qaeda has turned into a drug smuggling gang in this part of the world, in order to pay for their terrorist operations. This means that the Islamic terror network has become a major power in the Sahel, the semi-desert region that goes from the west coast of Africa, through southern Algeria, all the way east to Ethiopia. It's a region populated by a few nomads, plus the occasional tourist and smuggler. Now that al Qaeda has set up shop, the tourists have fled and the local smugglers have some competition. Flush with drug profits, al Qaeda, and their local (bought and paid for) allies are well armed and equipped (with SUVs, trucks and satellite phones) keep the local security forces at bay, or at least unable to wipe out the terrorist activities. Algeria responds by pointing out that its laws do not allow its troops to cross borders in pursuit of terrorists. The southern neighbors see this as a lame excuse for not wanting to do their share.

Algeria is also suffering from rocky relations with the new governments in Tunisia and Libya. The recently overthrown dictators in those two nations had long been friendly and cooperative with the military dictatorship in Algeria. While technically in favor of this year's revolutions in Tunisia and Libya, Algeria was suspected of trying to support the dictators. Algeria did give sanctuary to members of Libyan dictator Kaddafi's family, and several other senior Kaddafi officials as well.

November 22, 2011: Some 600 kilometers east of the capital, soldiers tracked and caught up with a group of Islamic terrorists, killing six of them.

November 16, 2011:  A tour guide was convicted of plotting to kidnap foreign tourists and sell them to al Qaeda. He was sentenced to five years in prison. He and four others were arrested for this a year ago. It's been common throughout the Arab world for kidnappers to sell some of their victims to Islamic terror groups. This may not bring in as much cash, but it’s safer.

November 12, 2011: The government claims that Nigerian Islamic terror group Boko Haram has established connections with the Algerian branch of al Qaeda. No proof was offered, other than the fact that the Algerian/North African branch of al Qaeda now runs a major drug smuggling operation (moving cocaine from Guinea-Bissau, where it is flown in from South America, to the Mediterranean coast). But those smuggling routes are over a thousand kilometers from Nigeria and there is no other evidence that North African Islamic radicals have been in Nigeria. While these terrorists have been seen in northern Niger (along the Algerian border), police and counter-terror activity has made it difficult for the al Qaeda groups to move away from the Algerian border region. So, aside from some Nigerians visiting the al Qaeda groups, there is not much of a connection.

November 7, 2011: The government closed 900 mosques and prayer rooms, claiming that these venues were suspected of being used by Islamic conservatives to preach and organize Islamic radicalism and terrorism.

 

 

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