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Algeria: An Overlong Fight with Qaeda Offshoots | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Fighters from Ansar Dine stand guard during hostage handover in desert outside Timbuktu. French and Malian forces have driven al-Qaeda-linked militants from Gao, Timbuktu, and Kidal, but next step of pursuing them to remote desert and mountain bolt-holes looks like much tougher task. (AP)

Algeria- Algerian People’s National Armed Forces, (Algeria’s army) has accomplished several and sequential victories over extremist armed groups which have been fought since the wake of Algeria’s war against terrorism in 1993. With sporadic military operations, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) strongholds have been targeted—AQIM remains active in many of Algeria’s neighboring countries, facing a knock-out competition with ISIS, another terrorist organization seeking foothold in Algeria.

The Algerian army announced that earlier this week, 18 terrorists have been reportedly killed in the Rouakeche area of the Medea Province and had revealed that it has found and confiscated artillery and ammunition from the field which were in the possession of AQIM affiliated militants.

Medea had been terrorism-free for a decade now. However, tracking back in history, the province was considered as a no-army zone, given the tight grip extremist Armed Islamic Group of Algeria, led by Djamel Zitouni, had over it.

At the time the terrorist group invested in Rouakeche’s topography, using valleys and hills to nestle their barracks and target military and civil locations. The group had committed unspeakable mass genocides in the province, in which hundreds of innocent and unarmed civilians were killed alongside a large number of Algeria’s security men.

What is more is that AQIM – founded in 2007, rising from the remnants of the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria- had no traceable presence inside Medea save the outskirts. Observers believe that the extremists shifting into Medea proves two things; firstly, the army had cornered down the terrorists’ headquarters in Tizi Ouzou, Boumerdès, and Béjaïa. The second being that the extremist leadership was redistributing its members across new areas as to escape security monitoring systems.

The painful blow army forces struck the militants with came a year later to a painful terrorist attack AQIM staged against the army forces. Ramadan, 2015, 13 troopers were killed in a terrorist ambush in Aïn Defla, in northern Algeria.

Since the terrorist attack took place, the army intensified operations in locations were Qaeda offshoots exist.

The Medea quality operation, according to one of the defense ministry’s reports, had terminated 18 terrorists and apprehended another four. Among the other achievements was the retrieval of 20 machine guns, two semi-automatic rifles, a Mortar ballistic trajectory with ten projectiles, a 12.7mm machine gun, four Rocket-propelled grenades and a large stockpile of varied ammo encompassing at least 20 hand grenades and three explosive belts.

According to the report, launched on the 8th of June, the operation consumed nine whole days. During the action, a unit of six terrorists was identified, and taken down on June 19th 2016. Among the terrorists were, Muhyiddin H. known by Moussa; M. Boallam, known by Abu Sufyan; B. Alhaj, known by Samoora; A. Qwaider , known by Abu Mohsen; B. Ibrahim, known by Abu Aqil; and B. Ayachi, known by Osama.

Moreover, the takedown of this particular group is considered the fruitful result of the excessive training, formation and discipline practiced within the hierarchy of the Algerian army.

On the other hand, security and strategic expert Qawy Bouhnah told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that security in light of the last military operation predicts that sleeper terrorist cells still have the ability to revitalize and spread terror again, nevertheless, it also proves military capacity to react both effectively and swiftly to target the fundamental terrorist pockets. Bouhnah cited the take down ISIS prominent leader Abdelmalek Kore in an army-performed ambush north of the capital, Algiers, which also reportedly terminated a collection of ISIS militants.

Expert Bouhnah added that sleeper cells and terrorist-backing logistics networks still have a foothold in Algeria, specifically in tribal heights and regions, Medea, Tipaza reaching all the way to the capital’s suburbs. In the above-mentioned areas, army patrols are regularly run, specialized mine-neutralizing patrols and maneuvers are staged.

The Algerian army, with no doubt, had acquired great experience fighting terrorism at its prime in the 90’s. Moreover, intelligence collaboration among security bodies has also been given an upgrade, professional training has also massively enhanced. Professional teams now are trained in tracking leads and cracking proof to organized crime and its affiliation to gun and drug trafficking.

Moreover, Bouhnah added that ISIS’ move towards Libya’s coastal cities- only a few kilometers from Tunisian borders- and the increasing militant activity in Tunisia had also played into making the reinstatement of stability in the region a more difficult task; hence current state-of-affairs in Algeria were further disrupted given its regional depth.