Algeria: guerilla resurgence

Islamist guerillas are stepping up attacks in Algeria, apparently led by the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), which has rejected an amnesty offered by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to try to end more than a decade of violence. On June 11, two soldiers and a communal guard were seriously injured in a bomb blast in the region of Skikda, some 700 kilometers east of Algiers. The next day, the GSPC posted a video on an Islamist site showing the slitting of the throat of a prison guard. On June 13, a soldier was killed and three wounded by two bombs in Skikda and Sidi Bel Abbes, 400 kilometers west of Algiers. Over the next three days 10 people were killed by guerillas within 100 kilometers of Algiers.

The daily El Watan ran an editorial June 20 accusing the government of apathy towards the attacks: “Elsewhere, in developed countries, when a state agent is a victim of terrorism, the highest official authorities honor him and civil society mobilizes to express its rejection of barbarity… We are far from this in Algeria.”

Others see the new wave of attack as a response to government rpessure. In June alone, several Islamist rebels have been killed and a dozens of weapons seized in eastern Algeria. A security source who asked not to be identified, told Reuters 15 rebels have been killed in the past week in the Boumerdes region, and three have surrendered.

“It is an escalation, and the GSPC’s number one goal is to alleviate pressure over the rebels who are surrounded in the mountains by the military,” security analyst Ahmed Alouane told Reuters.

Algeria plunged into violence in 1992 after the military-backed authorities scrapped a parliamentary election that radical Islamists were set to win. The conflict claimed up to 200,000 lives and $20 billion in economic losses over the next several years. Thousands of Islamist guerrillas gave themselves up under a partial amnesty announced in 2000, and several dozen have come down from the hills under the latest amnesty initiative, which took effect in February and expires in August. Several hundred guerrillas are believed to remain at large.

Security specialist and editor Mounir Boudjema told Reuters: “The GSPC is sending a strong message to those who might be tempted to accept the amnesty offer and surrender. The message is ‘if you dare to surrender we will catch you and kill you.'” (Reuters, June 20 via Defense News)

See our last post on Algeria.