August 24, 2013: Strategy Page
Border police in Western Algeria are intercepting more drug smugglers bringing in hashish and cocaine via Morocco. This indicates that the al Qaeda controlled drug smuggling operation from tropical Africa (south of the Sahara desert) is recovering from the disruption inflicted by the French-led intervention in northern Mali last January. This operation led to increased security on all of Mali’s borders and the entire southern Algeria frontier. Al Qaeda lost a lot of people in Mali this year and this hurt the drug smuggling operation al Qaeda was running via Mali.
August 22, 2013: There was a rare terrorist attack in the mountains of Western Algeria, which left three of four hunters dead and beheaded. Police are seeking the killers, who may not be Islamic terrorists but probably are.
August 21, 2013: A notorious Algerian Islamic terrorist (Mokhtar Belmokhtar) has merged his al Qaeda splinter group with a Mauritanian Islamic terror group to form a new group: Al Mourabitoun. The Mauritanian component of Al Mourabitoun is the MOJWA (Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, largely composed of black African Islamic radicals and led by Mauritanians). MOJWA is unique among Islamic terrorist groups because its leadership is black African. Mauritanian security forces have made it very difficult for MOJWA to operate in Mauritania, and that’s why so many MOJWA members moved to Mali in the last year. Since France intervened in Mali this year, MOJWA and the Belmokhtar group have moved. The new group has already been operating, largely in Niger where it recently carried out several daring attacks (including a prison break in June and twin bombings in May).
Mokhtar Belmokhtar was also the planner of the January natural gas facility attack in southern Algeria that got 37 workers killed. Belmokhtar has a reputation for always escaping the many efforts to kill or capture him, and the U.S. is offering a $5 million reward for him dead or alive. Belmokhtar was number two or three in the North African al Qaeda organization (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb or AQIM) but formed his own splinter group in late 2012. AQIM and the Belmokhtar splinter group had members from all over North Africa but mostly from Algeria, and while defeated in Mali, it was not destroyed there. Al Mourabitoun has announced that it is planning attacks against French citizens and businesses in Africa, as well as targets in Egypt (to support the recently deposed Moslem Brotherhood government there). Al Mourabitoun will probably not try to carry out more attacks in Algeria, where the security forces are eager to nail Belmokhtar for the many attacks he has previously carried out in his homeland. Belmokhtar appears to be moving around in Niger and southern Libya.
August 19, 2013: In the far south, around the town of Bordj Badji Mokhtar on the Mali border, the government is trying to quell growing violence between armed members of the Arab Brabiche and Tuareg Idnan tribes. This is all about tribal politics and long-standing tribal feuds, not Islamic radicalism. In the last week at least 23 people have died in a series of skirmishes. The conflict area is 2,200 kilometers from the coast and the government is also sending 1,500 elite army troops to help restore order.
August 12, 2013: Tunisian warplanes attacked a terrorist base in the Atlas Mountains just across the Tunisian border. Tunisian police and soldiers have spent over four months hunting for up to fifty Islamic terrorists who are operating near the Kasserine Pass and Mount Chaambi area . Tunisian security personnel have been searching a hundred square kilometers of sparsely populated forests and mountains without much success. A few terrorists have been killed or captured and cell phones captured containing videos of attacks on soldiers and police. The fleeing terrorists are having a hard time sustaining themselves but they are armed and not inclined to surrender. Algeria has reinforced its border security with Tunisia and blocked several attempts by the Tunisian terrorists to slip into Algeria. This is the first time Tunisia has had to deal with armed Islamic terrorists since 2007. These armed men have been active in the area since January. Some of these terrorists recently fled Mali and others are from Algeria. These were joined by a smaller group (a dozen or so) of Tunisian Islamic terrorists who had apparently not been active until joined by all these new men and a few additional local recruits. There has been a lot of evidence that Tunisia is providing more Islamic radicals for terrorist groups. Eleven of the 32 terrorists killed in the attack on an Algerian natural gas field in January were Tunisian, which provided a hint that there were a lot more Islamic terrorists in Tunisia than the government wants to admit.