Category Archives: Algeria

Are CIA and Western Intelligence Services Covering Up Algerian Sponsorship of Islamist Jihadists?

Sharmini Peries speaks to investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed about his latest piece: ‘Intelligence agencies are running al-Qaeda camps in North Africa ‘. (The Real News)

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The Drone War Goes Awry in Africa

Geoff D. Porter reports for Foreign Policy:

Three years ago this month, a previously unknown Islamist group, the Mourabitoun, launched an unprecedented attack on a natural gas facility near the eastern Algerian town of In Amenas. But after its dramatic opening salvo, the group went strangely quiet. Some argued the In Amenas attack was as irreproducible as it was unprecedented — and those voices gained strength after Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the Mourabitoun’s leader and founder, was reported to have been killed by a U.S. drone strike last summer.

The doubters have now been quieted. After three years of inactivity, the Mourabitoun has abruptly reappeared. The Jan. 15 attack on a restaurant and hotel in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, which left at least 28 people dead, was the second deadly incident involving Belmokhtar’s group in less than two months. The first, some 500 miles away in neighboring Mali on Nov. 20, was a joint operation with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). It involved three assailants, armed with AK-47s and grenades, who rampaged through the Radisson Blu hotel in downtown Bamako, sparking an hours-long siege during which 27 people were killed. It remains unclear whether the assailants were trained and equipped by AQIM or by the Mourabitoun — or even whether the distinction is still valid.

But the Bamako and Ouagadougou attacks, though nearly identical, represent a marked departure from the In Amenas attack. The differences underscore how much the Mourabitoun’s capabilities, tactics, strategy, and even its geographical focus have shifted over the last 36 months. They also offer plenty of reasons to reconsider the strategy, developed by proponents of the U.S. drone war, of neutralizing terrorist groups by “decapitating” their leaders.

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Lost Context: France’s unresolved Algerian war sheds light on the Paris attack

Robert Fisk writes for The Independent:

battle_of_algiers_1232724603_resize_460x400[…] Whenever the West is attacked and our innocents are killed, we usually wipe the memory bank. Thus, when reporters told us that the 129 dead in Paris represented the worst atrocity in France since the Second World War, they failed to mention the 1961 Paris massacre of up to 200 Algerians participating in an illegal march against France’s savage colonial war in Algeria. Most were murdered by the French police, many were tortured in the Palais des Sports and their bodies thrown into the Seine. The French only admit 40 dead. The police officer in charge was Maurice Papon, who worked for Petain’s collaborationist Vichy police in the Second World War, deporting more than a thousand Jews to their deaths.

Omar Ismail Mostafai, one of the suicide killers in Paris, was of Algerian origin – and so, too, may be other named suspects. Said and Cherif Kouachi, the brothers who murdered the Charlie Hebdo journalists, were also of Algerian parentage. They came from the five million-plus Algerian community in France, for many of whom the Algerian war never ended, and who live today in the slums of Saint-Denis and other Algerian banlieues of Paris. Yet the origin of the 13 November killers – and the history of the nation from which their parents came – has been largely deleted from the narrative of Friday’s horrific events. A Syrian passport with a Greek stamp is more exciting, for obvious reasons.

A colonial war 50 years ago is no justification for mass murder, but it provides a context without which any explanation of why France is now a target makes little sense. So, too, the Saudi Sunni-Wahabi faith, which is a foundation of the “Islamic Caliphate” and its cult-like killers. Mohammed ibn Abdel al-Wahab was the purist cleric and philosopher whose ruthless desire to expunge the Shia and other infidels from the Middle East led to 18th-century massacres in which the original al-Saud dynasty was deeply involved.

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Algerians suffering from French atomic legacy, 55 years after nuke tests

Johnny Magdaleno reports for Al Jazeera:

Algeria's agony lives on, decades after French nuclear tests‘[…] Southern Algerians were not properly warned of their danger after France’s misgoverned nuclear bomb-testing campaign of the early 1960s, which vitrified vast tracts of desert with heat and plutonium and left a legacy of uncontained radiation that is still crippling inhabitants. Estimates of the number of Algerians affected by testing range from 27,000 — cited by the French Ministry of Defense — to 60,000, the figure given by Abdul Kadhim al-Aboudi, an Algerian professor of nuclear physics.

Yet there has been little accountability for France’s disregard. A compensation scheme for victims of France’s nuclear tests exists, but it has made payouts to only 17 people. The majority of those were residents of French Polynesia, where France relocated its nuclear testing campaign after leaving Algeria and experimented with more than 190 nuclear bombs from 1966 to 1996.’

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Islamic State Sprouting Limbs Beyond Its Base Raising Fears of Unending War

Eric Schmitt and David D Kirkpatrick report for The New York Times:

‘The Islamic State is expanding beyond its base in Syria and Iraq to establish militant affiliates in Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt and Libya, American intelligence officials assert, raising the prospect of a new global war on terror.

Intelligence officials estimate that the group’s fighters number 20,000 to 31,500 in Syria and Iraq. There are less formal pledges of support from “probably at least a couple hundred extremists” in countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Yemen, according to an American counterterrorism official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential information about the group.

[…] But it is unclear how effective these affiliates are, or to what extent this is an opportunistic rebranding by some jihadist upstarts hoping to draft new members by playing off the notoriety of the Islamic State.’

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Algeria to donate World Cup prize money to Gaza

From My Cat Bird Seat:

‘The Algerian World Cup team has decided to donate their team prize money of $9 million they got after their Round of 16 match with Germany to the people of Gaza, revealed one of the squad’s forwards.’

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Nafeez Ahmed: Behind the rise of Boko Haram – ecological disaster, oil crisis, spy games

Nafeez Ahmed writes for The Guardian:

#BringBackOurGirls protest outside the Nigerian consulate in South Africa. Photograph: Ben Curtis/AP‘The kidnapping of over 200 Nigerian school girls, and the massacre of as many as 300 civilians in the town of Gamboru Ngala, by the militant al-Qaeda affiliated group, Boko Haram, has shocked the world. But while condemnations have rightly been forthcoming from a whole range of senior figures from celebrities to government officials, less attention has been paid to the roots of the crisis.

Instability in Nigeria, however, has been growing steadily over the last decade – and one reason is climate change. In 2009, a UK Department for International Development (Dfid) study warned that climate change could contribute to increasing resource shortages in the country due to land scarcity from desertification, water shortages, and mounting crop failures.

…Apart from the fact that the west has been content to turn a blind eye to these problems by propping up the corrupt Nigerian government while accelerating oil and gas deals, there is a further complication. Abundant evidence shows that al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM) have exploited the rise of Boko Haram to gain increasing control of the Nigerian militant movement. What we’re not being told, however, is that al-Qaeda’s rapid expansion through northwest Africa has occurred under the rubric of Algerian state intelligence services – with US, French and British knowledge.’

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Algeria’s Bouteflika wins re-election with 81.5%, opponents cry fraud

Patrick Markey and Lamine Chikhi report for Reuters:

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the aging independence veteran already in power for 15 years, won re-election on Friday after a vote opponents dismissed as a stage-managed fraud to keep the ailing leader in power. Sitting in a wheelchair, Bouteflika had cast his vote on Thursday in a rare public appearance since suffering a stroke last year that raised doubts about whether he is fit enough to govern the North African oil-exporting state. Preliminary official results showed Bouteflika had won with 81.53 percent of the vote, Interior Minister Tayeb Belaiz told a news conference. His nearest rival, Ali Benflis, won 12.18 percent, and national turnout was 51.7 percent. Bouteflika, 77, was already widely expected to win with the backing of the powerful ruling Front de Liberation Nationale (FLN) party, which has dominated the political system since independence from France in 1962.

Western governments have been allied with Bouteflika in their campaign against Islamist militants in the Maghreb and are keen to secure Algerian gas shipments to Europe especially with Ukraine’s crisis threatening Russian supplies. Bouteflika did not campaign himself, but loyalists praise him for guiding Algeria out of a 1990s war with Islamists that killed 200,000 people. The conflict left many Algerians wary of the turmoil that has swept neighboring Tunisia, Egypt and Libya since their “Arab Spring” revolts in 2011. Six opposition parties boycotted Thursday’s vote, saying it would not reform a system mostly closed to change since the FLN’s one-party rule in the early post-independence years. Bouteflika won 90 percent of the vote in 2009 and 85 percent in 2004, when his main rival then, Benflis, alleged fraud on an “industrial” scale.

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Algerian leader mocked as N Korea ‘wannabe’

From BBC News:

Screenshot of a doctored image of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Algerian leader Abdelaziz BouteflikaPresident Abdelaziz Bouteflika was photoshopped to look like Kim Jong-un – complete with his suit and distinctive hairstyle – in a picture by private newspaper Le Matin. The picture appeared beside a letter from the president, in which he says serving Algeria is his “sole reason for being” and he “decided not to disappoint” those citizens who have been calling on him to stay at the helm.

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Politically Adrift, Algeria Clings to Its Old Ways

From The New York Times:

Algeria seems stuck in a state of limbo.

The 76-year-old president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, 14 years into his tenure, has not addressed the nation in more than a year and is chair-bound since suffering a stroke in April. Since then, he has held just three meetings with foreign dignitaries. Outside a tight circle, no one is even sure if he still speaks. Still, the ruling National Liberation Front, clinging to stability in a chaotic region, is backing Mr. Bouteflika for a fourth term in presidential elections set for April.

Before a postponement was announced because of the Iran nuclear negotiations, Secretary of State John Kerry was scheduled to visit here on Sunday, but it was not clear that he would have met the president. Mr. Kerry’s mission to persuade this critical strategic partner — with vast oil wealth, a powerful army and intelligence service, and experience in fighting Islamic terrorism — to take a more assertive role in the region will be no easy task.

“Algeria should be a big actor in this part of the world, but it is not playing its role,” Ihsane el-Kadi of Maghreb Emergent, an online business publication, said in an interview. “It is still a closed country.”

Indeed, critics and other observers say the generation of leaders who won Algeria’s independence from France in 1962 and still run the country half a century later will continue to resist any change. A civil war against Islamic extremists in the 1990s — at the cost of about 200,000 lives — has left the population wary of change, too. The result has been that a variety of problems, like a prostrate economy and declining levels of education, have been left to fester and now threaten to undermine the country’s future and even eventual stability.

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Arab states need to end energy subsidies to create a ‘new relationship with oil’

From The National:

Arab states have been urged to re-evaluate their relationship with oil, phase out energy subsidies and invest heavily in renewable energy.

Revenue from oil and gas will continue to be crucial but governments should use the funds to develop renewable resources and focus on energy efficiency.

Energy subsidies should be phased out, private investment encouraged and national energy strategies established, the Arab Forum for Environment and Development says in a new report.

[…] Throughout the Arab world, hydrocarbons account for an average 36 per cent of GDP, but the figure varies widely from country to country – from 33 per cent in the UAE to 88 per cent in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, up to more than 97 per cent in Algeria and Iraq.

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Algeria announces major oil discovery

From AFP:

Algeria’s energy minister says a new oil field containing an estimated 1.3 billion barrels has been discovered.

Youcef Yousfi told the state news agency Saturday that the discovery near the large oil fields in the southern region of Hassi Messaoud is one of the most important in the last 20 years.

He added the state oil company, Sonatrach, will rely on unconventional techniques to extract 50 percent of the reserves, including hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.

The field will be exploited in the next three to four years following the necessary studies, the report added.

Algeria, an energy giant in Africa that already is one of the largest natural gas suppliers to Europe, had been concerned about declining oil reserves.