News / Africa

Analysts Predict More Active Algerian Anti-terrorism Policy

A checkpoint is seen at the entrance of a gas field near Zarzaitine in Ain Amenas, southeast of Algiers, Algeria, January 22, 2013.
A checkpoint is seen at the entrance of a gas field near Zarzaitine in Ain Amenas, southeast of Algiers, Algeria, January 22, 2013.
Lisa Bryant
Algeria's aggressive response to the hostage crisis at a remote Sahara natural gas plant came as no surprise to those who remember the nation's bloody civil war against Islamist fighters in the 1990s. Now analysts are predicting that the military operation, which killed dozens of people, could open the way for improving relations with former colonial power France and a more active stance against terrorism outside its borders.   

With its military strike at the Ain Amenas gas complex in the Sahara this past weekend, Algeria moved from being a sidelines spectator of neighboring Mali's fight against Islamists insurgents to center stage in defusing an international crisis.

The government defends its tough, military response to the hostage-taking crisis, which is considered one of the bloodiest in recent memory.

At a news conference broadcast on French TV, Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal said the army's assault against the hostage takers at the Ain Amenas complex was appropriate because the assailants intended to kill all their captives. It sends a strong message, he said, that terrorism won't survive in Algeria.

Differing reactions to the raid

A Japanese government aircraft, which will bring home the bodies and Japanese survivors from the hostage crisis in Algeria, takes off at Haneda airport in Tokyo in this photo taken and provided by Kyodo, January 22, 2013.A Japanese government aircraft, which will bring home the bodies and Japanese survivors from the hostage crisis in Algeria, takes off at Haneda airport in Tokyo in this photo taken and provided by Kyodo, January 22, 2013.
x
A Japanese government aircraft, which will bring home the bodies and Japanese survivors from the hostage crisis in Algeria, takes off at Haneda airport in Tokyo in this photo taken and provided by Kyodo, January 22, 2013.
A Japanese government aircraft, which will bring home the bodies and Japanese survivors from the hostage crisis in Algeria, takes off at Haneda airport in Tokyo in this photo taken and provided by Kyodo, January 22, 2013.
But some foreign governments, whose nationals were killed in the incident, question whether Algeria could have avoided such a high death toll. North African analyst Kader Abderrahim, a professor at the Institute of Political Studies in Paris, went further, calling the operation a failure.

"What I'm sure now is that the image of the Algerian government [internationally] is really broken. We know now that this regime has not changed," he said. "And it will never change. Brutality and a very strong policy, that's it," he said.

But others believe any international criticism will fade quickly. And Monsouria Mokhefi, who heads the Middle East and North African program at the French Institute of International Relations, said nobody should be surprised at Algeria's response.

"Anyone who knows a little bit about the Algerian regime could not expect anything but a strong, powerful and immediate, brutal reaction. It's always been the case of the Algerian forces when they had to face terrorism - and you know they've had to face it very frequently for the past two decades," Mokhefi said.

Algeria was plunged into a bloody civil war in the 1990s that pitted the military-backed government against Islamist extremists. Tens of thousands of people were killed. While President Abdelaziz Bouteflika pushed through a so-called civil reconciliation shortly after his election in 1999, the scars of the conflict remain. Thousands of "disappeared" people have yet to be accounted for. Ordinary Algerians blame both the Islamists and government security forces.  

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)

  • Formed in the 1990's to fight Algeria's secular government
  • Wants to rid North Africa of western influence and impose sharia
  • Estimated to have amassed $100 million in kidnapping ransoms
"These [new extremist] groups reminded everybody that although the civil war ended 10 years ago, although there has been this 'concorde civil' of Bouteflika in 1999, terrorism is still alive and still capable of striking… and it did strike at the heart of Algeria last week," Mokhefi said.

Siege could spur proactive role outside Algeria

The hostage incident may also reshape a more proactive Algerian response to terrorism outside its borders, Mokhefi said, starting in neighboring Mali.

"In the past few days, things have changed and one can expect serious, although different involvement of Algeria in this whole issue of fighting terrorism at its borders. I don't know what form it will take, [but] definitely Algeria cannot stay still and watch," he said.

William Lawrence, North Africa project director for the International Crisis Group, agrees. The hostage crisis has brought another surprise, he said - a rapprochement between Algeria and former colonial power France, which is helping Mali fight the insurgency.

"Of the 15 or 20 countries involved in the Malian conflict, France was at one end of the spectrum and Algiers at the other end of the spectrum in terms of what to do," he said. "The Algerians wanted a much softer, more negotiated, more political approach and the French wanted a quicker, more muscular approach and yet now, Algeria and France are singing out of the same choir book," he said.

Reaction at home is mixed

At home, opposition politicians have criticized the military operation. But many ordinary Algerians, who routinely criticize their government, have praised the army's response.

"It doesn't mean that the support goes to Bouteflika or to the current government. And it doesn't mean Bouteflika has secured his next reelection," Mokhefi said.

But analyst Abderrahim, who is part Algerian, said many people also fear a return to the bloody 1990s.

"Now, Algeria is going in a very, very difficult way, because the ghosts haven't died. And all the people there remember the '90s. And all of my friends are really, really afraid about what could happen after this action in Ain Amenas," he said.

So while the hostage crisis may have ended, Algeria's battle against terrorism is far from over.

You May Like

Disappointing Report on China's Economy Shakes Markets

In London and New York shares lost 3 percent, while Paris and Germany dropped around 2.4 percent More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs