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

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month 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.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid