U.S. Department of State Country Reports on Terrorism 2006 - Algeria
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Author||Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism|
|Publication Date||30 April 2007|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Reports on Terrorism 2006 - Algeria, 30 April 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4681086d11.html [accessed 23 April 2014]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
For the majority of 2006, the security situation in Algeria remained relatively unchanged, marked by stability in the major urban areas and low-level terrorist activities in the countryside. The last quarter of the year, however, witnessed four attacks in the province of Algiers, including one that targeted Westerners. These were the first attacks inside the province since 2004. Until these recent attacks, terrorism in Algeria was generally not aimed at foreign entities. Instead, the country's major terrorist group, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), preferred to target Algerian government interests.
Two events helped fuel terrorism concerns in Algeria: the GSPC's September merger with al-Qaida and the conclusion of the amnesty period for Algeria's National Reconciliation project. Following al-Qaida's September 11 announcement of the GSPC's status as an AQ affiliate in North Africa, the group changed its name to al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and subsequently made more threats against what it termed "crusading" westerners, particularly American and French citizens. On October 19, an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded outside a military barracks in an Algiers suburb, wounding six; and on October 30 two bombs killed two persons approximately 20 kilometers from downtown Algiers. On December 10, a shuttle bus carrying expatriate workers of an American oil services company was ambushed in an Algiers suburb thought to be secure because of its proximity to residences of senior government officials and a major western hotel. This attack, done with a road-side IED, killed two foreigners and wounded several others, including an American worker. The terrorists escaped. The December 10 attack against a relatively soft American target generated greater global media attention than nearly all of AQIM/GSPC past attacks against Algerian government targets. Given the success of this attack in terms of media attention, the AQIM/GSPC likely will attempt further attacks.
Even before its affiliation with AQ, the GSPC was an organization whose regional ties were expanding. AQIM/GSPC support cells have been discovered and dismantled in Spain, Italy, Morocco, and Mali; it maintains training camps in the Pan-Sahel. The AQIM/GSPC's regional scope, however, is thought to be the result of successful Algerian security service and military operations against it on Algerian soil that compelled it to operate outside Algerian territory. The Algerian services killed approximately 260 terrorists and arrested an additional 450 in 2006, compared to the combined killed and arrested figure of about 400 for 2005.
The counterterrorism successes of the Algerian services, combined with the public's continued rejection of terrorists, led the AQIM/GSPC to seek new methods to finance attacks. Algerian media reported the use of extortion in concert with 16 instances of fake roadblocks and 55 kidnappings inside Algeria. The kidnappings, sometimes in coordination with fake roadblocks, often targeted wealthy Algerians. Not all these methods were attributed solely to the AQIM/GSPC as there was also a growing crime problem in Algeria. AQIM/GSPC terrorists such as Mokhtar Belmokhtar have also taken an active role in regional smuggling to finance terrorism.
The final stages of implementation of the national reconciliation, a major policy initiative of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, took place in 2006, and sought to bring closure to the near civil war between Algeria's secular government and Islamic terrorists in the 1990s. A cornerstone of this initiative was the six-month amnesty program from March to September 2006 for repentant imprisoned or active terrorists who had not committed bombings, massacres, or rapes. As of September, over 2,300 convicted terrorists were released and more than 350 terrorists surrendered to authorities in order to benefit from the amnesty; statistics on the recidivism of these individuals were not available. Despite a September deadline for amnesty, the government has quietly extended the amnesty grace period indefinitely. In addition, some members of the banned political party Islamic Salvation Front returned to the country from self-imposed exile as part of the amnesty.
The National Reconciliation policy was an effort to resolve divisions that had resulted during more than a decade of civil strife. The amnesty, however, paradoxically appeared to harden the resolve of the remaining terrorists. Indeed, there were reports of terrorists killing cohorts who surrendered to the authorities. During the March through September amnesty period, 199 security officials and civilians were killed, compared to 107 during the rest of the year. Perhaps as a show of defiance and renewed determination, the AQIM/GSPC was responsible for the death of 78 security officials and civilians in October and November, immediately after the amnesty period ended. The AQIM/GSPC, thanks in part to high unemployment among Algerian youth, was partially successful in replenishing its numbers after the arrests, surrenders, and deaths of over 1,000 terrorists. Those remaining appear to be more hard-line and resistant to the government's amnesty offer.
Despite the upsurge of AQIM/GSPC activity toward the end of the year, overall, the government has greatly improved security from the situation of the late 1990s. The Algerian security services and military remained capable of handling the prolonged effort against internal terrorist threats and continued to be a reliable ally in the War on Terror.