Algeria: Extremist Surrenders after 12 Years in Terrorist Strongholds

Algeria's President and head of the Armed Forces Abdelaziz Bouteflika gestures during a graduation ceremony of the 40th class of the trainee army officers at a Military Academy in Cherchell

Algeria- An armed Algerian extremist left terrorist strongholds and surrendered to local military authorities after spending 12 years in the ranks of extremist groups.

Meanwhile, the Algerian army command announced dismantling thousands of anti-personnel mines, dating back to the French colonial period between 1830 and 1962.

On its official website, Algeria’s Ministry of National Defense described the terrorist who surrendered on Sunday in El Milia as “dangerous.”

“D. Fares” aka “Abu Osama,” who had joined terrorist groups in 2005, had a Kalashnikov type machine gun, ammunition and a pair of binoculars, said a statement from the Defense Ministry.

The Ministry neither did mention the organization to which the terrorist belonged nor the crimes he may have committed while operating; however, the most famous extremist groups is known as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, formerly known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC).

In this context, the Ministry launched again an appeal to remaining terrorists to seize the opportunity and benefit from the regulations in force, like those who surrendered to the security authorities.

In reference to the policy of national reconciliation, judicial pursue against militants is abolished in case they voluntarily renounced terrorism and hand themselves to the authorities.

On the other hand, Algerian Defense Ministry on Monday announced the destruction of the last stockpile of anti-personnel mines in an operation.

Chief of Staff of the People’s National Army Ahmed Gaid Salah supervised the final stage of the public destruction operation of 5,970 anti-personnel mines, which have been retained for training purposes in the province of Djelfa, 300 km south of Algiers.

General Salah, who is also the deputy Defense Minister, said Monday that “Algeria has fulfilled its international obligations by destroying the remaining stockpile of anti-personnel mines held by the army in accordance with Ottawa Convention (Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction).”

Algeria ratified the treaty on 17 December 2000. The operation on Monday is the last of a series of destruction launched by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika since 24 November 2004.

Gaid Salah stressed that Algerian people have been suffering from mines for decades now, and that led to starting firm effort to clear Algerian territory from anti-personnel mines.

He announced that the Algerian army has discovered and destructed about nine million mines and completed the clearance of more than 62,000 hectares of agricultural and pastoral land since 1963.

Most of the mines were planted during the Second World War and the French colonial period.

Human Rights Watch: Houthis Used Banned Mines in Yemen

Human Rights Watch has accused Houthi putschists, and their allies, of using banned landmines in Yemen, resulting in the maiming and deaths of “hundreds of civilians.”

“Al-Houthi rebels and pro-Saleh forces have used antipersonnel landmines in at least six provinces since the Arab coalition began its operations in Yemen in March 2015,” the Organization said in a report released on Thursday.

“Houthi-Saleh forces have been flouting the landmine ban at the expense of Yemeni civilians,” Steve Goose, director of the Arms Division at Human Rights Watch, said.

Both Houthis and armed militants backing ousted former president Ali Abdullah Saleh have joined each other in their attempts to reign over Yemen. Backed by Iran, Houthis overran Sana’a in 2014 and established a coup capital there, after driving out legitimate authorities.

Yemen has banned antipersonnel mines for nearly two decades, but Iran-allied Houthis have violated the ban which led to killing and maiming hundreds of civilians, disrupting civilian life in affected areas and impeding the safe return of thousands of displaced civilians to their homes, said the Saudi state-owned news agency SPA.

Human Rights Watch also highlights that landmines will make the return of the millions of people who have fled their homes far more difficult — even after the conflict ends. However, such an end is nowhere in sight.

The use of anti-personnel landmines by Houthis and Saleh loyalists forces violates international laws of engaging in battle and such actions instate war crimes.

Human Rights Watch says that the use of landmines has been used in six governorates of Yemen since March 2015.

The International Campaign to Ban Landmines reported that at least 988 people were killed or wounded by landmines or other explosive remnants of war in Yemen in 2015.

Scientists Find 50,000-Year-Old Microbes in Mexican Mine

London- In Naica, Mexico, researchers found ancient life forms of microbes trapped inside crystals, and revived them in the lab after they were in almost total slumber.

Penelope Boston, the head of NASA’s Astrobiology Institute, said about 100 different kinds of microorganisms — most of them bacteria — have been found locked in Naica crystals for periods ranging from 10,000 to 50,000 years.

Ninety percent of them have never been observed before now, she said.

Researchers are expected to publish results they already announced in a scientific event. However, Researcher Boston actually released these results in the AAAS Forum in Boston, considered the biggest scientific event in the world.

Penelope Boston entered the caves where she found the bacteria for the first time in 2008, when she worked as a professor at New Mexico Institute; miners found these caves 100 years ago; they were filled with water, which forced workers to evacuate them. Researchers worked in these mines in soaring temperatures, and sometimes they wore cooling jackets.

Although other scientists previously found some types of microbes in these mines, the crystallized bacteria found this time were surprising; these new creatures grow in very hard conditions, as they do not need light, and draw their energy from minerals, according to Boston.

To revive these bacteria, Boston’s team imitated the environment these creatures were living in; however, this technique revived only some of these bacteria and not all.

Arab Coalition Destroys New Houthi Sites Near Saada

The Arab coalition carried out a series of air strikes on positions belonging to the Houthis and military forces loyal to the former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh in the governorate of Saada.

According to the German news agency DPA, Popular Resistance sources said that coalition aircraft launched six air strikes on positions belonging to Houthis and Saleh’s forces in the two regions of Al-Souh and Al-Fir’ in the Kitaf Directorate, Saada.

The sources added that the sound of heavy explosions was heard at those sites in addition to columns of smoke rising as a result of the raids. They added that those raids coincided with the beginning of a demining operation carried out by the national army and the Popular Resistance’s forces which aims to demine the main roads surrounding the Al-Buq’ port “in preparation for the advance on the governorate of Saada”. According to sources, the “mines impede the progress of the army and the Popular Resistance towards Saada, and obstruct them from taking control of new sites”.

Furthermore, a senior military source revealed that the senior leadership of the Yemeni armed forces held lengthy meetings during the past two days to study all the options available in order to stop the rebels from targeting the Yemeni border and military targets, the latest of which was a US destroyer.

Tunisian forces prepare to confront jihadists

Radical Islamist movement Ansar al-Shariah supporters clash with Tunisian police officers after Tunisia's Interior Ministry on Friday. (AP Photo/Nawfel)
Radical Islamist movement Ansar Al-Sharia supporters clash with Tunisian police officers. (AP Photo/Nawfel)
Tunis, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Tunisian government has sent military reinforcements to Jebel Ech Chambi in the Kasserine province in the west of the country following an incident in which Tunisian troops came under attack two days ago.

In this latest attack, a number of soldiers were injured by a mine which exploded under their Hummer vehicle, splitting it into two.

Eyewitnesses said the clashes happened in an area about two and a half miles from Kasserine.

Armed forces surrounded the area but did not risk getting close in case there were more mines in the area, and due to the possibility of coming under fire from the terrorist group.

These latest clashes have shown a shift in strategy by the insurgents, who have started using anti-armor mines, which are more lethal than locally made mines. None of the armed men, who were thought to be making their escape to the Algerian border, were arrested.

Internal security forces’ union member in Kasserine, Elfadel Sayhi, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the clash, the night before last, had made the situation more dangerous. He said the fact that the armed men had opened fire randomly meant that they were feeling under pressure because of the siege.

In another development, security forces in Qayrawan, central Tunisia, stopped members of Ansar Al-Sharia, a Salafist group, from painting walls and bus shelters and cleaning the streets on Saturday and Sunday. The walls had graffiti carrying anti-revolution slogans and expletives, which prompted Ansar Al-Sharia to start the cleaning campaign. However, Abdelmakid Laghoune, Qayrawan’s governor, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the security forces had stopped the campaign because Tunisian youth were carrying the name of Ansar Al-Sharia on their shirts.