Algeria: Al Qaeda Under Heavy Attack


March 6, 2013: The government continues to remain one move ahead of the kind of rebellion that hit other similarly corrupt governments during the “Arab Spring”. Enough of the most corrupt and inept members of the government are being dumped, along with some economic progress, to keep angry mobs off the streets. People are still angry because there is still a lot of corruption and lost economic opportunities around for all to see. In Algeria the Arab Spring at least served to provide some needed motivation to fix the mess decades of bad government created. Algerians are hoping to have a bloodless revolution, largely because they do not want a repeat of the bloody war with Islamic radicals in the 1990s. To that end, even senior people in the government are helping out by turning on the most corrupt and inept members of the leadership and even going public with details of the massive thefts of oil income over the years. European firms that have long done business with the Algerian company are going public with details and this helps persuade their Algerian counterparts to admit what everyone in Algeria already suspects. While these European revelations are largely the result of European efforts to clean up their own corruption, it helps reformers in foreign countries like Algeria.

France has not yet been able to get DNA proof that the man Chadian troops killed in northern Mali on March 2nd was Mokhtar Belmokhtar (the planner of the January natural gas facility attack in southern Algeria that got 37 workers killed). Al Qaeda says Belmokhtar is still alive but offer no proof. The supreme leader of al Qaeda in North Africa (Abdel Malek Droukdel) is believed to still be hiding out in northern Algeria and he would be the one to appoint a successor to Belmokhtar. There has been no such announcement yet. Meanwhile, the destruction of so many al Qaeda bases in Mali, and the death of hundreds of hard-core Islamic terrorists there, have demoralized Islamic radicals throughout North Africa. At the same time all counter-terrorism forces in the region are trying to take advantage of all this by seeking out Islamic terrorists fleeing Mali.

Seizures of illegal drugs (hashish, cocaine, and heroin) tripled last year (from 53 tons 2011 to 157 tons). This is an indication of growing affluence in Algeria, but the hashish and cocaine are coming from the south mainly for export to Europe. This smuggling is a primary source of income for al Qaeda and other Islamic radical groups, and the seizures are an indication of its success and the extent of Algerian efforts to stop it.

March 2, 2013: In Mali Chadian and French troops found and destroyed a major al Qaeda camp near the Algerian border. Among the dead were two Algerians (Abdel Hamid Abu Zeid and Mokhtar Belmokhtar) who were high ranking al Qaeda leaders.

February 24, 2013: The Tiguentourine natural gas facility in the south resumed limited production. The plant had been closed since the January terrorist attack that left 37 workers dead. Heroic efforts by key members of the security and operational staff prevented the plant from being heavily damaged. This was done by shutting down the gas flow early on, something the terrorists could not figure out how to reverse with all the key technical staff dead, fled, or silent.

February 22, 2013: Two raids in the north left a dozen al Qaeda men dead. More importantly 13 weapons and many documents were seized.

February 20, 2013: The U.S. has put its diplomatic personnel in Algeria on high alert because intelligence indicated there is a high risk of a terrorist operation against them. At the same time Algeria announced increased security around oil and gas facilities.

February 18, 2013: Acting on a tip from locals, troops in the south found the base of seven Islamic terrorists from Mali. Four of the terrorists were killed but three got away, apparently headed for Mali.




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