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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid