North Africa Theater
On Feb. 27, the Polisario Front's special mine action team destroyed 3,321 anti-personnel mines in Tifariti, Western Sahara. This was the Polisario Front’s second stockpile destruction since it signed the "Deed of Commitment for Adherence to a Total Ban on Antipersonnel Mines" in November 2005. High-level Polisario officials, including Secretary General Mohamed Abdelaziz, President of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (as recognized by the African Union and many States), attended the ceremony. Geneva Call, the Saharawi Campaign to Ban Landmines (SCBL) and Landmine Action UK inspected the destruction site before and after the operation. International delegates and media representatives also witnessed the event, among them Major General Kurt Mosgaard, Force Commander of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).
An Algerian army captain was killed Feb. 28 and another officer seriously injured in an attack near the village of Ain Rich, outside the city of Djelfa. Officials said the Mohadjrine Falange, a wing of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) was responsible. The army is carrying out a sweep of the area. In simultaenous coordinated night raids Feb. 27, several police checkpoints in the Kabylia region and near the coastal city of Boumerdes were attacked by gunmen with AK-47s. No casualties were reported. (AP, Feb. 28; DPA, March 1)
Some long-belated progress in the struggle of another stateless ethnicity left off the map in the colonial and post-colonial carve-ups. From Reuters, Feb. 21:
ALGIERS - The Malian government and Tuareg rebels agreed on Tuesday to start implementing an Algerian-brokered peace deal for the northeast desert region of Kidal, the Algerian official news agency APS said.
The Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC by its French initials) has been very busy lately. With little note in the world media, Tunisia last month apparently squelched a plot to attack the US and British embassies. It ended in a series of gun battles that killed a dozen militants and left two Tunisian security officers dead. It was kept very quiet—until the New York Times splashed it all over the front page Feb. 20, in somewhat sensationalist terms ("North Africa Feared as Staging Ground for Terror" by Craig S. Smith). Here are the relevant passages, emphasis added:
We're glad the hijacking was thwarted, but we don't quite get the politics behind this incident. The hijacker was supposedly seeking asylum from Mauritania (which remains a pretty oppressive place despite the democratic transition supposedly underway there), but Mauritania said the hijacker was a Moroccan from the Western Sahara. From 1975 to 1980, Mauritania occupied the southern half of Western Sahara; since then, Morocco has occupied the entire country. Are we ever going to find out who this guy really is and what he wanted? From AP, Feb. 16:
From Afrol News, Dec. 11:
An Algiers bomb attack against oil workers that killed an Algerian driver and wounded nine people, including several Western citizens, has raised fears that Algeria's trend towards peace and stability may end. As the US Embassy in Algeria today advises Americans to review their personal security, foreign oil companies already have decided to invest into protection against terrorist attacks.
Note the rather ironic last line of this account. Perhaps the real lesson US war-makers failed to glean from Pontecorvo's film was, "Stay out—its hopeless." From Italy's AKI news agency, Oct. 13:
Gillo Pontecorvo, one of Italy's leading filmmakers renowned for 'The Battle of Algiers', a realistic representation of Algeria's independence war against France, died on Thursday night. He was 86. The Battle of Algiers, which Pontecorvo wrote with Franco Solinas and directed in 1966, won the Venice film festival that year and was nominated for three Oscars - best director, screenplay and foreign film. The documentary-style movie showed the plight of Algerians during the 1954-62 war, denouncing the bombings and torture of civilians by the French military. It was banned in France until 1972 and in Britain until 1969.
This hero of the left has again revealed himself as fundamentally reactionary. Those with any familiarity with the struggle in Western Sahara know that talk about opposing the "partition of Morocco" is akin to opposing Israeli withdrawal from "Judea and Samaria." But even given Galloway's unseemly alliance with radical Islamism, this makes precious little political sense. His apparent genocide-denial* in the case of Darfur at least has some logic, as Sudan is a fundamentalist regime with anti-imperialist pretensions. Morocco is throughly in the Western camp, a domesticated partner in Washington's War on Terror. On the other hand, King Mohamed VI and the Islamist militants who occupy his torture chambers would probably agree where Western Sahara is concerned... From the Morocco Times Sept. 18: