Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM): Implications for Algeria’s Regional and International Relations

Rebranded in 2007, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is the latest incarnation of Algerian radical Islamism. Initially focused on attacks with great political resonance against Algerian governmental and military targets, the group has progressively shifted its priorities, alongside its geographical and operational features. In the past few years, the countries of the Sahel region (Mauritania, Malì, Niger, Chad) have been increasingly affected by AQIM’s actions. This geographical shift was the result both of a weakening of AQIM within Algeria, due to the tough counter-terrorist measures adopted by the regime, and of the “business opportunities” and the wider operational freedom offered by the Sahelian environment. The aim of this paper is to briefly address a series of questions concerning AQIM’s “Sahelization” and its consequences for Algerian foreign policy.

Algerian Senate confirms lifting of emergency rule

The Algerian Council of the Nation (Senate) adopted unanimously President Bouteflika’s order to lift the state of emergency, which announced the official end of a situation that existed since 1992 to fight Islamist violence. Two other orders that were previously adopted by the National People’s Congress (ANP Chamber of Deputies), were adopted as well. The first order confirms that the National Popular Army (ANP) remains in charge for “rescue missions of public order outside emergency situations”, which covers counter-terrorism activities. The other order replaces administrative detention in the Code of Criminal Procedure by a new measure which has to be determined by a judge: a terrorist suspect can now be placed under house arrest for a period of three months. This period is renewable twice. Police custody has now been reduced to 48 hours, renewable only by the prosecutor. Similarly, arrests, searches and wiretapping are henceforth to be done under the supervision of a magistrate.

UN Movie about repentant terrorists from Algeria

This brief 10 minute  film examines the experiences of an Algerian fighter and the factors that influenced him to disavow the use of violence and reenter “mainstream” society. The documentary series was developed by the UN as part of an effort to assist member states in taking action to counter violent extremism by providing a platform for former terrorists and their victims to speak out against terrorism. Referring to the aim of the initiative, Mr. Barrett stated, “We must show that terrorism is not an acceptable solution and that is why we focus on both the victim and the perpetrator in the films.”

Algeria to debate scrapping emergency powers

(Reuters) – Pro-government members of Algeria’s parliament have proposed lifting a 19-year-old state of emergency, a sign the authorities may consider scrapping a measure opponents say is used to stifle political freedom.

Opposition groups inspired by protests in Tunisia and Egypt have made the repeal of the state of emergency one of their main demands and some commentators say the government may make concessions to its opponents to avert unrest.

The government has said it needs the emergency powers to fight Islamist insurgents linked to al Qaeda. The violence has abated in the past few years, sparking public debate about whether the powers are still justified.

Trade unionists, opposition parties and civil society groups are planning a march in the capital on Feb. 12 to seek an end to emergency rule and greater democracy. Officials say the protest is illegal.

Britain, Algeria boost counter-terrorism strategy

Britain and Algeria will step up cooperation on security with the creation of a committee on counter-terrorism, a British minister said last week.

“We face a common threat from Al-Qaeda and in order to counter this there is a need for the nations to work more effectively together…,” said Alistair Burt, the British Foreign Office Minister for the Middle East and North Africa, in a statement.

“The bilateral committee is a manifestation of the determination of both the UK and Algeria to confront terrorism,” he said, adding that it would involve cooperation on training and intelligence sharing with a first meeting due to take place in London in two weeks.

Algeria to arm civilians to fight terror

The interior minister has reportedly said that Algeria will resume a policy of arming people to reinforce the fight against terrorism in the north African country. Dahou Ould Kablia says the government would honor a request of some civilians in insecure areas for weapons “to fight against terrorism.”

He didn’t specify which people would be armed and said the defense ministry was behind the decision. Algerian media on Wednesday published the comments made Tuesday.

The government had a policy of arming civilians during the Islamist insurgency that left up to 200,000 people dead in Algeria in the 1990s.

The EU as a counter-terrorism actor abroad

This paper by the EPC looks at thehandling of counter-terrorism in the ensemble of EU external relations and assistance vis-à-vis five countries of recognised importance for European interests: Algeria, Morocco, Yemen, Pakistan, and Indonesia.