Algiers, Asharq Al-Awsat- Regions in Algeria listed within the “strongholds of terrorism” have witnessed the resumption of armed activities. The Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) claimed responsibility for these actions. Security observers hold the view that the declared alliance between Al-Qaeda and the Salafist Group has given gunmen in Algeria some sort of moral support.
Security reports reveal that the (Algerian) Army was put on alert in the countryside of Al-Buwiyrah province, some 100 km east of the Algerian capital, awaiting orders to launch a military operation against the strongholds of armed groups in the region. This attack is in retaliation for the death of 10 soldiers and the injury of 20 others in an ambush that had been set by a terrorist group and that targeted an army patrol in the city of Biqas in Al-Buwiyrah province on Wednesday (8 November) evening. The operation is also in retaliation against the bombing of two police stations east of the Algiers a week ago, and the death of several soldiers in the western part of the capital in another ambush. It also falls within the framework of other security incidents, which the authorities considered to be “ordinary,” on grounds that armed groups exploited the period of calm, which lasted many long months, to call up their strength, obtain weapons and supplies, and recruit new elements to fortify their ranks. Security experts unanimously agree that the recent ambushes and bombings have the Salafist group’s stamp.
Algerian Interior Minister Yazid Zirhuni played down the importance of armed activities and said that they are insignificant compared to those carried out during the mid 1990s in terms of the number of victims. Well-informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the announcement made in mid September by Al-Qaeda Organization that the Salafist group had joined up with it has given a new push to armed activities in Algeria. The sources said that they expect a decline in the intensity of military operations soon. This issue was an object of discussion between Peter Rodman, the US assistant secretary of defense for international security, and Algerian Defense Ministry officials in Algeria last week.
A well-informed source said that two days ago, 12 people joined the armed groups. The source noted that these people “had previous experience in using weapons as a result of their exercise of terrorism,” in an indication that these people were previous members of armed groups and benefited from certain security and social arrangements in return for renouncing arms at the beginning of the year 2000. Men belonging to this group are known as “penitents,” and come from the town of Miftah, some 25 km south of Algiers. Miftah is considered one of the gunmen’s backline bases. According to the same source, the 12 penitents have been under the security services’ surveillance for suspecting their association with armed groups. The reasons for which these penitents have rejoined terrorists are unknown. However, it is noticeable that the majority of this group suffers a terrible social situation as a result of unemployment. They also complain about people continuing to associate them with terrorism. Also, they often accuse the authorities of “dodging their promises” that basically involve improving the situation of penitents by offering them jobs and resolving certain administrative problems that have to do with their previous armed activities.