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Country Reports on Terrorism 2011 - Algeria

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 31 July 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, Country Reports on Terrorism 2011 - Algeria, 31 July 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/501fbcc5c.html [accessed 23 October 2014]
DisclaimerThis 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.

Overview: In 2011, al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) remained a significant security threat, primarily in the mountainous areas east of Algiers and in the vast desert regions of the south, near countries on Algeria's southern border: Mali, Mauritania, and Niger. AQIM largely targeted Algerian security forces, but civilians were also wounded or killed collaterally. Algerian security forces isolated AQIM in the north and decreased the number of successful terrorist attacks, but AQIM continued to execute suicide attacks, attacks using improvised explosive devices (IED), and ambushes in the non-urban areas outside Algiers. Kidnapping Westerners in remote areas continued during the year as AQIM held hostages with the goal of receiving lucrative ransom payments. Algerian officials cited links between AQIM and other African terrorist groups, such as al-Shabaab and Boko Haram, and also noted criminal links between AQIM and narcotraffickers in the Sahel.

2011 Terrorist Incidents: AQIM engaged in notable terrorist activities in non-urban areas, including the first major terrorist attack in Western Algeria since July 2009, the first kidnapping of a foreigner in southern Algeria since 2003. The group's repeated attempts to move weapons from Libya into northern Mali and southern Algeria were partially stymied by joint Algerian and Nigerien border security operations. As in years past, Algeria experienced a spike in terrorist incidents during the summer and just prior to the start of Ramadan, which began August 1.

  • On February 2, AQIM kidnapped Italian tourist Maria Sandra Mariani near Alidena, marking the first abduction of a foreigner by a terrorist group in southern Algeria since 2003.

  • On April 15, approximately 40 AQIM militants attacked an army post east of Algiers and killed 17 soldiers.

  • On July 16, a pair of suicide bombings near Boumerdes signaled the start of the annual pre-Ramadan uptick in violence. The vehicle-borne IEDs were the first suicide bombings in Algeria since July 2010 and targeted a police station in a small town.

  • On August 26, a double suicide bombing against the Algerian Military Academy of Cherchell, west of Algiers, killed at least 18 people, mostly military officers, and injured as many as 35. The first attacker dressed in a military uniform, and the second bomber targeted those who responded to the first explosion.

  • On October 23, an AQIM-affiliated group kidnapped one Italian and two Spanish aid workers from a Polissario-run refugee camp near Tindouf. AQIM was suspected of holding the hostages on Malian soil.

Legislation and Law Enforcement: Algerian security forces, primarily gendarmerie troops under the Ministry of National Defense – conducted periodic sweep operations in the Kabylie region southeast of the capital in order to capture groups of AQIM fighters. Algerian law enforcement agencies cooperated with the United States and other foreign governments to prevent terrorist attacks against foreigners.

Over the course of the year, press reports indicated that security forces killed or captured approximately 800 suspected terrorists. In April, soldiers killed seven terrorists and arrested two during a military operation on the southeastern border with Libya. Algeria closed that border in September and sent thousands of security forces to secure it and prevent weapons smuggling. Authorities recovered 11 automatic weapons from the terrorists.

Algeria continued to participate in the Department of State's Antiterrorism Assistance program. Plans were made to expand existing capacity building cooperation for skills in investigations, forensics, and border security.

Countering Terrorist Finance: Algeria is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body, and hosted one of the 2011 plenary sessions. The Government of Algeria was reviewing its 2005 Anti-Money Laundering/Counterterrorist Financing (AML/CTF) law to determine amendments necessary in order to comply with FATF Recommendations. As a result, Algeria was working on elements of an Action Plan it drafted with the FATF as part of the International Cooperation Review Group process. Algeria has examined the deficiencies in its Financial Intelligence Unit and is working to improve analytical and resource capacity there as well.

In early 2011, Algeria rescinded a July 2010 presidential decree that mandated that all financial transactions over U.S. $6,670 be conducted by credit card, check, or other non-cash method in an effort to increase financial transparency, track illegal financing of terrorism, and reduce the possibility of corruption.

Algeria had no specific legislation to freeze terrorist assets but maintained that its ratification of international terrorist financing conventions gave it the authority to do so. Brokerage institutions and insurance companies were not covered under AML/CTF law. The MENAFATF report cited no clear legal obligation requiring financial institutions to include information on transaction originators. The report also noted that Algeria's Central Bank did not routinely circulate lists to financial institutions.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, we refer you to the 2011 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.

Regional and International Cooperation: Algeria is a founding member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF). In November, Algeria co-chaired and hosted the first meeting of the GCTF's Sahel Working Group; foreign ministry officials from more than 30 countries and international organizations met and discussed border control, law enforcement, and countering terrorist financing.

Algeria hosted a partnership conference in September for foreign ministry and defense officials from Algeria, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger, who were joined by counterterrorism and development officials from 20 other countries and international organizations to discuss law enforcement and development issues in the region. The presidents of Mali and Mauritania made state visits to Algeria in October and December, respectively, to discuss security and economic issues.

These efforts were in addition to the combined military command center in Tamanrasset (in southern Algeria) and the intelligence sharing center in Algiers that housed representatives from Algeria, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger. Algeria carried out periodic counterterrorism consultations with the United Kingdom, Russia, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States through standing bilateral contact groups.

Countering Radicalization and Violent Extremism: The Algerian government enlisted religious scholars and former terrorists to appear on its Radio Quran radio station to appeal directly to terrorists active in the mountains. Programs featured Islamic scholars from Algeria and Gulf countries who argued against the doctrines used by AQIM to justify terrorist operations. Former Algerian terrorists appealed to terrorists to stop fighting and surrender to Algerian authorities. Other radio programs instructed listeners in various aspects of Islamic law. Algerian newspapers reported that the radio appeals played a major role in convincing scores of terrorists to lay down their arms and take advantage of government amnesty. (Under the Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation, the Algerian government has offered amnesty to terrorists who surrender and who have not committed major terrorist acts.)

The government had the authority to prescreen and approve sermons before they are delivered during Friday prayers. In practice, each province and county employed religious officials to review sermon content. The Ministry of Religious Affairs' educational commission is responsible for establishing policies for hiring teachers at Quranic schools and ensuring that all imams are well-qualified and followed governmental guidelines aimed at stemming violent extremism. The government also has youth outreach programs through the Muslim Scouts.

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