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

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid