The author would like to thank Dr. Peter Borkowski, Professor at AUI, for editing this paper.
On January 2013, a terrorist group linked to the organization al-Mourabitoune1 stormed the In Amenas natural-gas facility, Algeria’s "economic lung." Over 800 people were taken hostage, among them 100 foreign workers. Threatening to kill the hostages and destroy the facility, the terrorists demanded the release of all Algerian jihadists and the withdrawal of French troops from northern Mali. Against expectations, Algerian authorities made it clear from the outset that they had no intention of either giving in or letting the terrorists leave Algeria. As a result, the national Special Forces were quickly dispatched to the area and surrounded it. During the standoff, a first group of jihadists tried to leave the facility with several hostages in their vehicles. However, the Special Forces poured a relentless barrage of fire on them to prevent them from escaping, causing the deaths of all the terrorists present in those vehicles and many of their hostages. Then, the Special Forces stormed the facility itself and killed the remaining jihadists.2 During these two assaults, 32 foreign hostages were killed. This event caused a major crisis, as it shattered Algeria’s image as a safe country, a key element of its foreign policy. It caused major concern in Western countries and Japan over the oil and gas facilities in which they had invested vast amounts of money, as well as the safety of a large number of expatriates living and working in them. Major oil companies threatened to leave Algeria, which could have caused a serious diplomatic and economic crisis for the country. The incident also led to a reshuffling of the Algerian security and intelligence services — among other things, the removal of General Bachir Tertag3 from the Internal Intelligence Service, which had been blamed for its failure to anticipate and deal with such threats.
After the outright refusal of negotiations and the ensuing assault, Algeria was indeed poised to mark a significant turning point in its strategy against Islamic terrorism. Yet 17 years before, following the election of Abdelaziz Bouteflika in May 1999, the president-elect, in July of that year, initiated the National Reconciliation policy, emphasizing negotiations with terrorist organizations to end the violence that had plagued the country during the 1990s. Although this policy did not exclude the use of armed force, priority was placed mainly on dialogue. Within this framework the Algerian army, in numerous cases, surrounded terrorist groups and negotiated their surrender in exchange for amnesty. This approach proved at that time to be a success in reducing the cycle of violence. Since 2013, however, a major shift in the army’s strategy has been observed, with "a timely return to the full use of armed force." Thus, massive military operations have been conducted all over the country against the last remnants of terrorist organizations. In 2015, over 100 terrorists were killed and 36 arrested.4 In July 2016, the army released a communiqué announcing that more than 100 terrorists had been killed in the first six months of 2016.5
These figures point to a major change as compared to the pre-2013 period. Actually, they reflect a reassessment of Algeria’s security dilemma. In this regard, the Arab Spring in North Africa resulted in the collapse of Libya and Mali, both becoming bases for terrorist organizations targeting Algeria, including notably Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), as well as the Islamic State (ISIS), which was emerging in Sirte, Libya, as an alliance between Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahraoui and ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. In fact, al-Sahraoui, who had been a co-leader of al-Mourabitoune, split from the organization, an al-Qaeda affiliate led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar. In Algeria, a similar process of disintegration took place inside AQIM with several katibats (brigades), such as Jund al-Khalifa and Katibat Al Ghouraba, pledging their allegiance to ISIS. The danger of these new affiliates materialized into a series of violent attacks. In a video released in July 2015 from Raqqa, the self-proclaimed ISIS capital in Syria, two Algerians, Abou Al Hafs el Djazaïri and Abou Al Baraâ el Djazaïri, directly threatened Algeria. Hence, Abou Al Hafs declared, "Between you and us, there will be a long war. The only path is jihad and only jihad." Abou Al Baraâ, directly addressing the Algerian military, said, "We will launch a war upon you until the reconquest of Andalusia. Repent before the arrival of our swords."6
This paper analyses the recent shifts in the Algerian authorities’ perceptions and assessments of the risks posed by the mutation of the jihadist organizations in Algeria itself, as well in neighboring countries, in light of the emergence of ISIS. Ever since terrorism emerged in Algeria in 1992, the Algerian authorities have followed two sets of what may be called doctrines, although not clearly defined, in order to deal with terrorism: eradication and reconciliation.
LIMITS OF NATIONAL RECONCILIATION
Since the appearance of modern terrorism in Algeria in 1992, authorities have followed two complementary unspoken strategies: eradication and reconciliation. Never explicitly defined, as Yahia Zoubir explains, the so-called supporters of a conciliatory strategy (Dialoguiste) advocate reconciliation with armed Islamist groups, and an amnesty with some concessions based on dialogue in order to stop the bloodshed. The eradicators advocate a repressive policy based on the notion that it is impossible to negotiate with such organizations. In practice, both strategies were followed simultaneously; the authorities suppressed radical groups, while always trying to negotiate a compromise.
The difference was often one of emphasis, whether on repression or negotiation.7 It was a reflection of the views of the Algerian regime’s key leaders. As such, the eradicators were closely associated with, among others, General Khaled Nezzar (minister of defense, 1990-93), General Mohamed Lamari (Army chief of staff), and General Toufik Mediene (head of intelligence services). The reconcilers were represented by President Liamine Zeroual and his key adviser, General Mohamed Touati. President Zeroual was responsible for conducting several rounds of negotiations with imprisoned leaders of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS, Front islamique du salut) and also offered a first limited amnesty in 1995 to terrorists involved only in logistic support, excluding the perpetrators of violent attacks. Following an all-out war against Islamist organizations, 2,500 men surrendered.8 In 1997, the general staff of the Army and Intelligence Services concluded a cease fire with two major Islamist groups: the Islamic Salvation Army (AIS, Armée islamique du salut) and the Islamic League for Preaching and Combat (LIDC, Ligue islamique pour la prédication et le combat). It continued to repress those who refused any compromise, such as the Islamic Armed Group (GIA), in particular. In 2000, those two organizations received general amnesty in exchange for renouncing political violence, in light of the Civil Concord law of the newly elected president, Bouteflika. With Bouteflika’s election in 1999, the conciliatory strategy became the dominant approach of the Algerian authorities.
The National Reconciliation Policy was put in place in 1999 in order to end the devastating civil war. This policy represented an important change towards Islamist armed groups, which had formed throughout the country after the Algerian army’s cancellation of the 1992 elections about to be won by the FIS. This triggered a civil war resulting in the deaths of 200,000 people. During the period 1992-97, the regime had pursued a so-called policy of eradication aimed at eliminating the Islamist armed groups through force, though some failed attempts to negotiate had been undertaken and some limited laws of amnesty were passed, such as the 1995 Rahma (clemency) Law and the 1997 ceasefire. Yet, it was mainly when President Bouteflika came to power that the shift occurred. As Omar Ashour has explained,9 that policy had to take into account several key issues, among which was the problem of the prisoners (those convicted of terrorism and jailed during the civil war, those who disappeared, and the social reintegration and rights of former terrorists).10
As an Algerian member of the security services has stated, "We came to realize that in order to win against terrorism we needed to cut off those groups from the population; i.e., from their financial resources."11 In the words of another Algerian official,
The strategy of National Reconciliation was implemented in three stages: the Rahma Law in 1995, the Concord Civil Law in 1999, and finally the Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation in 2005. Each one of these stages was aimed at having authorities take into account the acceptable demands of the surrendering terrorists with regard to the legal and judicial, social and political issues.12
He further explained in this interview that "in exchange for their renunciation of violence, those terrorists were to benefit from a general amnesty in addition to the setup of social and economic programs to facilitate their civil reintegration." Moreover, this same official said that these measures were intended to isolate the most radical groups from the moderate ones. Thus, the creation of a governmental coalition that included moderate Islamist parties such as Hamas should then allow them access to political power. Presented as an irreversible option by Bouteflika, this policy resulted in the release of 2,200 prisoners convicted of association with armed groups, while over 7,000 jihadists surrendered between 2000 and 2010. As a consequence, the level of violence declined considerably.13 Moreover, a special commission investigating the issue of disappearances during the war released a report estimating that 7,000 people went missing between 1992 and 1998. Each of the 6,540 families of these men received financial compensation of about 7,000 euros.14 This policy was deemed a major success since fewer than 300 former jihadists (less than 4 percent) relapsed into violence. As stated by Farid Alilat, a journalist and expert of jihadist groups, it is "thanks to the National Reconciliation Policy" that security was restored throughout Algeria, with the exception of some remote areas in Kabylia and in the west of the country.15
Terrorists are still active, though they are relatively few: 400 to 800 individuals, a number that has remained stable over the past few years. Thus, these figures might reflect the declining number of terrorists surrendering. In a September 2015 interview, Merouane Azi, president of the Judicial Assistance Unit for the implementation of the provisions of the Charter for National Reconciliation, announced that only 25 terrorists had surrendered in 2013 and 23 in 2014,16 adding, "We are at the end of our mission." Indeed, for the first six months of 2016, the army reported that only two terrorists had surrendered to the security services, quite a significant drop.17 Yet, Anis Rahmani, an Algerian expert on terrorism and director of the national newspaper An-Nahar, explains this decrease as the result of the reconciliation policy’s having drastically reduced the capabilities of still-active terrorist groups. He claims that the leaders have insulated their men from the outside world, forbidding them to buy newspapers or listen to the radio in order to prevent them from being tempted to surrender for the benefits offered by the reconciliation policy.18 In 2016, the testimony of a woman who had escaped with her children from a terrorist camp in Kabylia confirmed this interpretation: "We did not see anything, did not hear anything; no one told us about the Concord Civil Law or the National Reconciliation; they just warned us that if we came down from the mountains, we would be jailed for at least 25 years. There was no press, so I never left."19
An additional consequence of this policy on the youth was the diminishing appeal to new and younger recruits and their radicalization, thus limiting the ability of the armed groups to compensate for their losses. As a result, for Farid Alilat, "The jihadists who remained in the mountains are veterans. They convinced people that their fight was right. They think they have nothing to lose anymore, even if they are fighting for a lost cause."20 When asked in 2012 about the reasons for continuing to fight, in light of the lack of AQIM successes, a former jihadist in the Sahel said, "If the prophet lost the battle of Uhud, it didn’t prevent him from winning and taking Mecca a few years later."21 The fact that they live in closed environments and read the events through the prism of the prophet’s history gives them the motivation to continue fighting.
Thus the National Reconciliation Policy seems to have reached its limits; while thousands of jihadists have left their fight to return to civilian life, a still active core of around 800 are scattered over the country, unwilling to surrender. This state of mind is what Isselmou Ould Mustapha, director of the Mauritanian newspaper Tahalil and an expert on radical groups in the region, calls "the spirit of Kerbala."22 This incites the fighters to celebrate martyrdom and believe that their ultimate sacrifice would lead to victory.23 It coincided with a major change in the landscape of the terrorist organizations in both Algeria and the region. The weakening of AQIM led to a deepening of the divisions within the leadership and to the incitement of several leaders to abandon their allegiance to al-Qaeda and to rally to the rising and far more radical ISIS.
RISE OF ISIS IN NORTH AFRICA
The Weakening of AQIM
AQIM emerged in 2007 from the Algerian Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC, Groupe salafiste algérien pour la prédication et le combat). Ayman al-Zawahiri, then number two of al-Qaeda, assigned to this new affiliated group three main goals: to unite all the jihadist groups still active in North Africa, to re-launch a jihad against the political regimes in North Africa and to initiate terrorist attacks in Western countries.24 AQIM rose rapidly to become one of the most powerful al-Qaeda affiliates, superseding AQI (Al-Qaeda in Iraq) and split into two substructures, one operating in northeast Algeria and one in the Sahel region. Under the leadership of its supreme emir, Abdelmalek Droukdel, AQIM emerged as the most prominent jihadist organization in North Africa between 2006 and 2011, reaching its climax of power early in the Arab Spring. One of the most important sources of this power was its ability to kidnap dozens of Westerners in the Sahel between 2003 and 2012. They were released in exchange for huge amounts of ransom, close to 130 million euros. With this money, the Islamist organization acquired sophisticated weapons that it later used in several spectacular attacks in Algeria. In the Sahel, AQIM formed alliances with local jihadist groups, especially the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO, Mouvement pour l’unicité et le jihad en Afrique de l’Ouest) and Ansar Dine, another strong organization led by the local major Targui figure, Iyad Agh Ghaly. The alliance with Ghaly became a major axis for the AQIM strategy in the Sahel, creating bridges with local populations. Yahia Abu el-Hammam, the AQIM leader for the Sahel, explained in one of his rare interviews,
As far as the people of the region are concerned [the populations of Northern Mali], they are Muslims; we have participated in their education and have provided them with all the help we could. For Ansar Dine, we consider it as a local Islamic organization that has chosen Jihad in the name of God... and in spite of some differences on minor issues, we agree on many others.25
The Arab Spring and, more specifically, the collapse of Libya presented AQIM with decisive opportunities. Several of its leaders, including Abdelhamid Abu Zeid and Mokhtar Belmokhtar, went to Libya, where they were given access to the abandoned Libyan Army’s stock of weapons. Furthermore, in order to establish links with the Tunisian rebels, AQIM sent a brigade led by a Tunisian, Mounir el-Haidara, to northeastern Libya, to convince the Berber tribes of the region to join AQIM for the fight against Gaddafi’s regime. During this time, a sudden upsurge in AQIM’s operations occurred in northern Algeria involving ambushes and suicide attacks with detonators and explosives from those Libyan stocks that killed several dozen Algerian soldiers. Moreover, in August 2011, nearly 200 machine guns and several crates of ammunition were intercepted by Algerian customs guards at the Debdeb border with Libya.26 In February 2012, an impressive number of portable SAM 7 anti-aircraft missiles were also found in the Ain-Amenas region buried in the sand.27 These discoveries somehow substantiated the fears expressed by James Stavridis, NATO’s commander in Europe, who had declared in March 2011 before the U.S. Senate, "Everybody should be careful with regard to the arms deliveries to the Libyan rebels, as there are good reasons to believe that some of al-Qaeda’s jihadists are among them."28 In parallel, in northern Mali, the powerful coalition of AQIM, Ansar Dine and MUJAO took advantage of that weakened country to launch a massive attack over the whole Azawad region, conquering Kidal, Timbuktu and Gao, all declared de facto Islamic emirates.
Yet the situation changed very rapidly. In Algeria, as explained by Anis Rahmani, given increasing AQIM violence and racketeering, the army and security services quickly reorganized to confront it. Thus, AQIM gradually lost the benefit of the neutrality of the local Kabyle populations, which had until then prevented the security services from being efficient in their fight against terrorism.29 Thereafter, key leaders of the Islamist organization were killed or arrested, among them Abou Hafs El Farmache30 and Rabah Makhfi,31 both AQIM military commanders; Abou Salah, chief of AQIM propaganda, was also captured. More dramatically for AQIM, the strategy of National Reconciliation conducted by the Algerian authorities between 2000 and 2012 proved to be effective. Over 6,500 former fighters had surrendered to the security services during that period, whereas, according to Merouane Azi,32 only 1,200 armed-group members were arrested and over 250 killed between 2007 and 2011.33
AQIM in the Sahel suffered from two additional major setbacks. Following internal conflicts, Belmokhtar (at that time one of the most powerful leaders of the AQIM brigades in the Sahel) announced he was leaving the group in December 2012 to create his own organization, El-Mouaguiine Biddam ("those who sign with blood"). Then, in August 2013, al-Mourabitoune merged with MUJAO. For Belmokhtar, the creation of this new organization met the demands of al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s leader, to whom he once again pledged allegiance. The creation of al-Mourabitoune was a major blow to AQIM since it was directly challenging its authority over the jihadist groups in the Sahel.
Besides that split, the second turning point was the launching of French-led operations to reconquer Northern Mali, controlled by jihadists since May 2012. The first one, Operation Serval, took place from January 2013 to July 2014, followed by Operation Barkhane, which started in July 2014. These two operations (major successes, since around 1,000 jihadists were killed and their groups dispersed) led to control over all the key urban centres of the region. Several key figures from both AQIM and al-Mourabitoune were killed,34 among them Abu Zeid and Abdelkrim al-Targui (two major AQIM leaders in the Sahel). Belmokhtar lost Omar Ould Hamaha, Abou Bakr Al Nasr and, notably, Ahmed al-Tilemsi, military commander of al-Mourabitoune. However, as explained by Isselmou Ould Moustafa, "While Serval has weakened AQIM and all the other jihadist groups in Mali, it has certainly not removed the conditions which allowed these groups to emerge in the Sahel."35
It is in this very specific context that AQIM had to face a new and more dangerous rival, ISIS, which had emerged in the Middle East with a huge impact on jihadist movements worldwide. In June 2014, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed his caliphate, urging all jihadist groups throughout the world to join and pledge allegiance to it. However, Abdelmalek Droukdel, supreme emir of AQIM, and Yahia Abu el-Hamam, the AQIM leader in the Sahel, refused. Belmokhtar, supreme emir of al-Mourabitoune, soon followed. All three remained loyal to Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda. The very creation of AQIM was based on total loyalty to al-Qaeda. Indeed, as Mathieu Guidère has said, "In the early 2000s, several ideologues, trained in Afghanistan, came to disseminate new doctrines into GSPC, while dozens of Algerian combatants were back from Iraq to teach new techniques of warfare to the GSPC."36
Thus, the footprint of al-Qaeda on GSPC, later renamed AQIM, remained very strong. This explains Droukdel’s immediate refusal to join ISIS and his statement, according to which the proclamation of Baghdadi was done without consultation with the Moudjahidine:
We want to establish a caliphate in the way of the prophecy; i.e., based on the Shura (consultation), which aims at unifying all Muslims and at sparing their blood. For him, he (Baghdadi) still has time to fix the flaws of his announcement. 37
In this same communiqué, Droukdel reconfirmed his allegiance to al-Qaeda and its spiritual guide, al-Zawahiri. For his part, Abou el-Hammam, the AQIM leader in the Sahel, reacted in a similar fashion:
Regarding the caliphate, as already answered by our Sheikh al-Zawahiri, this issue should take place in accordance with the Sharr [Shariah, Islamic jurisprudence] until it is rightly decided. We do not recognize the Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi caliphate, which is not in the path of the prophet.38
Finally, Belmokhtar remained loyal to Zawahiri by reiterating that "al-Mourabitoune is in the path of al-Qaeda jihad."39
It should be mentioned that these reactions from the key leaders of AQIM and al-Mourabitoune arose, on the one hand, in the context of competition between ISIS and al-Qaeda, and on the other hand, after withdrawals of many of their jihadists, who had become dissatisfied with the setbacks of their organizations and saw in ISIS a more promising future for their fight and their legitimacy. Therefore, as early as June 2014, in the immediate aftermath of the proclamation of the caliphate, several jihadist defections in favor of ISIS took place. For an Algerian observer close to those issues, "This reflected the fact that several leaders within AQIM wanted to part from the organization in order to regain their legitimacy and remobilize the support of their fight after the repeated failures of al-Qaeda."40 However, this was going to materialize into an even more radical organization.
The Rise of IS in Algeria and the Sahel
Thus, as of June 2014, AQIM, which had lost several of its major leaders in the Sahel and in Algeria, appeared to be a much-weakened organization having major difficulties in mobilizing and recruiting new fighters. Its successive failures had yielded the emergence of a younger generation of jihadists, for whom al-Qaeda and Zawahiri were no longer jihad symbols. It is in this context that the Islamic State has emerged in the Middle East, taking control of large swaths of land in Iraq and Syria. Ideologically more radical than al-Qaeda, ISIS has drawn its appeal from its ability to take control of and retain large amounts of territory.41 Where al-Qaeda had failed, ISIS succeeded. As stated by Pierre-Jean Luizard,
On the difference with al-Qaeda, what characterizes ISIS is its territorial power, which puts forward a state in construction, a sovereign caliphate, and an army, not just a group of Mujahidin like al-Qaeda but a state with even its own currency.42
For their part, Stacey Erin Pollard, David Alexander Poplack and Kevin Carroll Casey explain the attractive power of ISIS by the fact that this organization
... bears all the hallmarks of a professionalized, bureaucratically controlled armed force, including (a) an adaptive, cohesive leadership structure, (b) disciplined and experienced executives, (c) continuous and effective recruitment, (d) the ethos of their dedicated ranks, (e) a superior logistics network, (f) an ability to pay consistently competitive salaries and benefits to veterans, widows, and orphans of their fighters killed on the battle fields, and (g) an extensive military and ideological training. These factors help to ensure battlefield effectiveness and longevity of their force.43
This in turn has led ISIS to be successful in attracting and retaining control over widespread territories and has made it possible for the organization to reach its goal: the "restoration of the caliphate." For Mathieu Guidère, the caliphate is a powerful symbol of the unity and continuity of the umma (the community of believers) and, to that extent, it is "at the heart of Pan-Islamism." This is why all jihadist movements today aim at uniting all Muslim territories under the single banner of a caliphate.44 Further to its series of successful conquests, ISIS released a proclamation in June 2014 announcing its creation:
The time has come for those generations that were drowning in oceans of disgrace, being nursed on the milk of humiliation, and being ruled by the vilest of all people, after their long slumber in the darkness of neglect, the time has come for them to rise. The time has come for the Umma of Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) to wake up from its sleep; the sun of jihad has risen. Therefore, the shura (consultation) council of the Islamic State has studied this matter after it [the Islamic State] by Allah’s grace gained the essentials necessary for a caliphate, for which the Muslims would be sinful if they did not contribute to establish it. Considering the fact that the Islamic State has no shariah (Islamic legal) constraints or excuses that can justify delaying or neglecting its establishment, the Islamic State has therefore resolved to announce the establishment of a worldwide Islamic caliphate.45
The ISIS leader, Baghdadi, was then proclaimed as the new caliph, "Caliph Ibrahim." He urged Muslims worldwide to dissolve all their present allegiances to other Islamic organizations, al-Qaeda or otherwise, and pledge only to the Islamic State. Indeed, by proclaiming himself the ISIS caliph, he clearly implied that all Muslims around the world were to come under his authority.
As seen above, however, even if most of the AQIM and al-Mourabitoune jihadists in Algeria and the Sahel had pledged their loyalty to al-Qaeda, each would lose several commanders who had chosen to join ISIS. That was the case of Abu Abdullah Osman al-Assimi, a high-ranking AQIM member, who held the position of Islamic judge within the organization. In July 2014, he released a statement in which he considered that "the ISIS approach applied shariah on the ground, remapped their Islamic Caliphate, supported the oppressed and removed the tyrants; only the ignorant, envious or spiteful blame Islamic State militants. Whoever has insulted ISIS must repent."46 In turn and shortly after the proclamation of a caliphate, following al-Assimi’s path, the leader of the AQIM al-Arkam brigade, Abdelmalek Gouri, announced his separation from AQIM and the creation of his own organization, Jund al-Khalifa, and its allegiance to ISIS. In two successive communiqués, Gouri confirmed that his organization was to fight under the ISIS banner "in North Africa and in the Sahel, two countries that have deviated from the right path."47 Gouri also expressed his regrets to Baghdadi: "Our command of AQIM did not position itself in your favour. However, as far as we are concerned, we have decided to support you. You have, in the Islamic Maghreb, men that will obey your orders."48
Thus, led by Gouri and al-Assimi, Jund al-Khalifa, the first ISIS affiliate in North Africa, started operating in east-central Algeria. They marked their split from AQMI by ambushing the Algerian security services in April 2014, and their allegiance in September of the same year by the dramatic hostage taking and murder of French alpinist Hervé Gourdel. These events triggered a swift reaction by Algerian security services, which conducted the elimination of Jund al-Khalifa by May 2015. Nevertheless, a few weeks later, in July, another AQIM brigade, Katibat-El-Ghuraba, led by Nouredie Laouira (AKA Abou Al Hamam) and active in the region of Constantine, confirmed its allegiance to ISIS.49 He conducted several attacks, including suicide bombings against a police station in February 2017. Here again, the Algerian security services launched massive operations in the region, leading to the death of the Al Ghuraba leader in March 2017 and the suppression of the organization in April of the same year. Nonetheless, one month later, in May 2017, a new brigade of AQIM, a small group composed of only 11 persons — what was left of Katibet El Feth, once a powerful brigade — announced its split from AQIM and pledged allegiance to ISIS.50
One can observe similar patterns in the Sahel. In May 2015, following the AQIM and al-Mourabitoune setbacks, Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahraoui (al-Mourabitoune’s second in command) announced his split from the organization to rally behind ISIS: "When al-Mourabitoune announces its allegiance to the caliph of the Muslims, Bakr Al-Baghdadi, it will thus ban the divisions and dissension within the Muslim community." Thus al-Sahraoui announced the creation of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (IGSS) and launched several attacks in the region, including in Burkina Faso in September of the same year. However, surprisingly enough, it took over a year for ISIS to recognize this allegiance, preferring to focus on the more powerful Boko Haram, which had become an affiliate of ISIS in 2015 under the name al-Wilayat al-Islamiyya Gharb Afriqiyyah (Islamic State West Africa Province).
As expected, this allegiance, immediately rejected by Belmokhtar, generated several military confrontations between al-Qaeda loyalists and newly affiliated ISIS members. In June 2015, the Algerian daily El Watan reported violent clashes between AQIM fighters and al-Mourabitoune dissidents, in which al-Sahraoui was injured.51 In this regard, the AQIM leader in the Sahel, Yahia Abu el-Hammam, condemned those clashes, as they increased the divisions between Muslims "in a time when they should be fighting enemies of Allah." He also stated that, though formal organizational links with breakaway al-Mourabitoune groups were broken, they nonetheless maintained continuous contact.52
Yet, the most powerful ISIS affiliates were to emerge in Libya. In the city of Derna, an organization called the Shura Council of Mujahideen pledged its allegiance to ISIS in October 2014. Contrary to Jund al-Khalifa in Algeria and breakaway al-Mourabitoune groups in the Sahel, this new Libyan affiliate proved to be more powerful and successful. The organization was all the more dangerous in that it was created under the thrust of several hundred Libyan fighters of the Battar Brigade who had fought in Syria and Iraq under the banner of ISIS and had just returned to their home countries.53 Well-trained and highly motivated to take advantage of a collapsed and fractured Libya, they quickly gained control over several key cities, including Sirte in central Libya. This rapid expansion raised major concerns among the Western powers, especially France and Italy, as well as among their neighbors, Egypt and Algeria.
For Algeria, with its growing number of nearby affiliates, ISIS was becoming a major source of threat. As mentioned above, this organization had directly threatened Algeria in July 2015 through a video released from Raqqa by two men presented as Abou Al Hafs el Djazaïri and Abou Al Baraâ el Djazaïri (two Algerian ISIS fighters). The threats from ISIS in Libya had increased since Algeria seemed to have become a target for its fighters there, as confirmed by Abdel Raouf Kara, the head of a powerful anti-ISIS Libyan militia in Tripoli. He declared, in February 2016,
The information we have suggests that among ISIS combatants there are many Tunisians, Moroccans and Algerians. Many coming back from Syria are well organized and well prepared. According to the prisoners we have interrogated, we believe their next targets are Morocco and Algeria.54
For an Algerian observer, the situations in Libya and Mali are threatening for different reasons. Not only are there financially autonomous groups, such as ISIS, that want to attack Algeria; they also devolve into weak and failed states in which there is a free and open weapons market.55 For his part, Akram Khrief, an Algerian journalist and a specialist on security matters, believes that, while ISIS in Libya and Algeria do not represent a major military threat to the Algerian Army, it is, however, a significant one. They can launch timely attacks in Algeria or smuggle terrorists in from Libya to conduct them.56
As a result, the weakening of AQIM and the emergence of a more radical ISIS-related group inside Algeria and on its borders doubled the pressure on Algerian authorities to reassess their security strategy. This had become more than necessary since the Policy of National Reconciliation had reached its term limit in 2014.
Return to the Eradication Strategy
As Farid Alilat remarked, Jund al-Khalifa’s beheading of French tourist Hervé Gourdel again brought Algeria under too much international attention, just one year after the catastrophic hostage taking of Ain Amenas.57 Beyond their brutality, these two events have dramatically contradicted the image of a stable and secure country that the Algerian authorities had been promoting since the civil war in the 1990s. Hence, as a response to the kidnapping of Mr. Gourdel, thousands of soldiers were deployed to hunt down Jund al-Khalifa in a vain effort to free him. Yet, when the rescue operation ultimately failed, the army decided to reorganize, reform and maintain its deployment to face both the remaining terrorist groups from both of AQIM and Jund al-Khalifa. In addition, it reinforced the troops on the borders with Libya and Mali.
Confronting Terrorism: The New Strategy
Regarding the remaining terrorists inside Algeria, Farid Alilat further argues that the related strategy followed two tracks: to strengthen the operational capabilities of the security services on the ground and to implement a psychological-warfare-oriented attempt to re-establish contact with the remaining terrorist groups and persuade them to surrender. This was done not only within the context of the National Reconciliation policy, but also to involve former terrorists as well as their families in reaching out to them. Although this approach was not new (it had been used in the 2000s), a major strategic emphasis was now attributed to it. In the 2000s, the National Reconciliation policy relied heavily on direct negotiations with the leadership of the active terrorist organizations. In fact, by 2014, the leaders of AQIM and Jund al-Khalifa, who had both rejected any kind of bargaining, left very little room for such a strategy.
Regarding the army’s operational capabilities, the Algerian government had decided, according to Akram Khrief, to further capitalize on its experience in the 1990s and to acquire more advanced and sophisticated weapons in order to mop up the recalcitrant armed groups.58 One of the most important acquisitions relates to electronic warfare encompassing, among other things, systems to monitor cell phone and Internet communications. Significant quantities of advanced armaments were also purchased, including helicopters, drones and night-vision systems. All this led Khrief to say, "Now the Algerian special forces can intervene quickly in daytime as well as at night."59 Indeed, one of the major issues for both AQIM and Jund al-Khalifa was to maintain their ability to communicate and launch attacks. Yet, their mountainous territory and the fact that they were generally acting in small groups limited their organizational possibilities, forcing them to communicate through cell phones, which were immediately vulnerable to detection.
Considering the specificity of the threat posed by ISIS affiliate Jund al-Khalifa, especially after the murder of Hervé Gourdel, the army focused on its prompt elimination. As confirmed by a member of the security services, "our instructions were to hunt them down and to eliminate that threat at all costs."60 Several military operations were unleashed, culminating in the December 2014 killing of Jund al-Khalifa leader Abdelmalek Gouri. The rest of his organization was decimated in a spectacular military operation in May 2015 that generated massive news coverage. Two of Gouri’s successors were also killed: Abdellah Othman Al-Assimi in May 2015 and Saddek Habbach in October 2016.61 By June 2015, Jund al-Khalifa was considered by Algerian security services as fully dismantled; most of its members had been either killed or captured, and the remainder were completely isolated.62 However, a few weeks later, in July 2015, Katibat El Ghoraba, an AQIM brigade led by Abou Hoummam, active in the region of Constantine, officially announced its separation from AQIM and allegiance to ISIS. As a consequence, AQIM was also put under heavy pressure from the Algerian army when dozens of its members were killed or captured. The heaviest blow was the death in October 2016 of its number two, Djamel Hanneb, a close adviser to Abdelmalek Droukdel, the organization’s supreme emir.63
In addition to this strategy, the Algerian security services pursued, as Farid Alilat named it, a psychological approach. The authorities endeavored to persuade former terrorists and their still-active relatives to surrender, negotiate and provide detailed information on their organizations. Moreover, their surrender, which exempted them from any legal jeopardy, could be an incentive to others who were still active. In addition to this, as explained by Anis Rahmani, the terrorist organizations had lost the neutrality of the local populations, especially in Kabylia, because of the growing frequency of kidnappings for ransom.64 Radical Islam was no longer perceived as an option by young people. That, in turn, limited their recruitment and further accentuated their weakness. In addition, according to Farid Alilat, most of the still-active combatants were getting too old to continue fighting, some being in their 40s and even 50s.
Thus, although there are no definite figures on the number of the terrorists remaining in Algeria, estimations suggest that around 300 are still dispersed throughout the northeastern and central regions of the country, isolated and in small groups. Although the terrorist threat has not completely disappeared, many claim that it has declined to a residual level.
Confronting ISIS and AQIM in Libya and the Sahel
The most important threat to Algerian security comes from the Sahel and Libya as spaces of weak and failed states. As seen above, since 2014, ISIS has been able to take control of the main areas in Western Libya while major attacks in Tunisia, led by ISIS fighters trained in Libya, have raised the concern not only of Algeria but of the major powers as well, especially after the terrorist attacks in France in 2015.
Sharing a border with Libya has dramatically increased Algeria’s security dilemma and alarmed its special forces. As a former minister of foreign affairs has stated, "The whole neighborhood is destabilized: arms, terrorism and illicit trafficking of all kinds. Given the links between [Libya’s] groups and those in Algeria, one would argue that this is not a matter of external security but rather one of internal security."65 The number of Algerian fighters in ISIS is — in the absence of specific figures and as of 2015 — estimated to be anywhere from 63 (Algeria Ministry of Religious Affairs) to over 300 (other sources), including Algerians fighting in Libya, Syria and Iraq. This includes Algerians holding dual citizenship (mostly French). Thus, these estimates have been historically low, compared with the thousands of young Algerians who went to Afghanistan in the 1980s and Iraq in the early 2000s. However, as pointed out by many security specialists, the concern here is not solely with Algerians fighting abroad; it is the sum of North Africans fighting there, which has reached several thousands, and who might be coming back home after the recent ISIS defeats in Iraq, Syria and Libya (where they recently lost their stronghold of Sirte). As stated by Bassel Torjmane,
In spite and/or because of these defeats, there is always a risk of infiltrations from Libya due to the absence of a state in that country. These infiltrations of jihadists, which could be either individual or collective, are a major danger in regard to their expertise in weaponry and explosives, as demonstrated in the case of the attacks which took place in Tunisia in 2015.66
Farid Alilat considers that "the main threat might be coming from the borders, where there are higher possibilities of infiltrations. Yet, so far, no attacks have been perpetrated since the Tiguentourine one of January 2013."67
Thus, in order to deal with that threat, the Algerian armed forces have deployed an impressive military presence along the Tunisian, Libyan and Malian borders, with tens of thousands of soldiers armed with advanced weapons, helicopters and tanks, in addition to the frontier police and to the building of small fortresses. On the other hand, repeated demands for military intervention in those countries have been rejected by Algerian authorities. As explained by observers,
Algeria rather chose political negotiations with the various factions involved in the conflicts in Mali and Libya, in order to stabilize the political situations while containing the threats of transnational terrorist groups trying to get into the country. Indeed, Algeria is not in favour of any direct military involvement.68
As another high-level Algerian official confirmed,
General Lamari, chief of staff of the Algerian army in the 1990s, was completely opposed to any external deployment of the army abroad. That position is still in effect and still observed by our current Deputy Defence Minister and ANP [the Algerian Army] Chief of Staff General Gad Salah.69
In addition to its attempts to hermetically seal its borders, Algeria has committed to cooperating with all the major powers involved in the Sahel and to fighting against terrorism, especially through the exchange of information, an area in which it has developed important expertise. Thus, according to an Algerian official, "We all know that fighting against terrorism is before anything else a matter of intelligence, and in that context Algeria remains the eyes and ears of the countries in the region."70 As a matter of fact, Algeria has signed several agreements with Tunisia, which is considered a strategic partner on various matters, including the creation of a bilateral military commission, the monitoring of communications, the exchange of information, and co-operation between the security services of both countries.71 Similar agreements had also been signed in early 2012 with Libyan authorities. However, as argued by Abdennour Benantar, "the collapse of the Libyan state and the ongoing civil war prevented any meaningful co-operation between the two countries in that regard."72
In spite of all these commitments, as most of the countries surrounding Algeria are considered weak or failed states, co-operation with them, however strong it has been, has been insufficient in terms of impact. Yet it has managed significantly to limit terrorism and weapons infiltration. In particular, according to Khrief, "One of the major problems for ISIS is a lack of active Algerian jihadists and those susceptible to recruitment, a situation quite the opposite to that of the Islamist movement of the 1980s. And, though 200 trained men can cause trouble and launch attacks, the circumstances in Algeria have since then drastically changed to the point that the country cannot be destabilized."
One of the most important paradoxes of Algeria’s shift in dealing with terrorist organizations regards regional threats and co-operation. Algeria has been following the same approach since the early 2000s, an approach heavily influenced by the National Reconciliation policy. The collapse of Libya and Mali in the aftermath of the Arab Spring has led those two countries to become rear bases for terrorist organizations, whether ISIS or AQIM. In the wake of the shift in Algeria’s strategy at the domestic level, one would have expected Algeria to play a more assertive role at the regional level. In spite of this, Algeria has constantly called for a political solution in both countries, described by an Algerian diplomat as
founded on two pillars: the rejection of any external military intervention perceived as aggravating the conflicts; second, the creation of an inclusive dialogue with all parties involved in the conflicts in order to reach a compromise, to create legitimate institutions accepted by all parties, a dialogue in which Algeria could play a leading role.73
The idea is to isolate transnational terrorist groups from the population and have local groups eliminate them without any external interference. As one may note, this approach is heavily influenced by the National Reconciliation strategy. However, this fails to take into account the fact that both Mali and Libya are radically different from Algeria. Libya has collapsed and Mali remains extremely weak, with scores of armed groups in those two countries often receiving external support, whereas Algerian authorities had regained control of the situation by the time the reconciliation policy was implemented among a small number of weakened armed groups (AIS, GIA, GSPC) that had no external backing. Algeria has also repeatedly called for regional co-operation in fighting against terrorism. However, here as well, it has not really functioned, as the CEMOC74 case illustrates.
In addition, regional co-operation is severely hampered by the competition between Algeria and Morocco, the two major regional powers. One of the main limitations here is the systematic refusal of Algeria to intervene militarily in neighboring countries to fight terrorism, preferring instead to seal its borders and block infiltration by terrorist groups. As we saw, Algeria does co-operate by providing information as well as logistical support, such as gas for French military forces in the Sahel. However, as long as the goals of Paris and Algiers diverge75 (the most important factors being the intense competition with Morocco over the Saharan issue), any attempt to produce robust co-operation in unlikely to succeed.
In November 2016, General Gaid Salah, the deputy defence minister and ANP chief of staff, gave a speech in which he announced that Algeria was "once and for all, poised to win the war against terrorism."76 In December, he reported that during that year, 350 terrorists had been killed or captured by army security services. This explained, in part, his November declaration, as well as those of many others, that terrorism in Algeria was about to reach its final stage. While optimistic expressions such as "final hour" and "residual terrorism" to describe the security situation have been used by Algerian authorities for the past 15 years, active terrorist organizations in Algeria remain resilient even if clearly weakened. The figure of 400 still-active terrorists has been "stable" for the past several years in spite of the many killings, arrests and surrenders mentioned above. One of the main reasons is that AQIM groups have retreated to remote areas, mainly in the mountains of the Kabylia. They move around in small groups, gathering only to conduct attacks and then disperse, which makes it very difficult to eliminate them. According to a member of security services,
for each man fighting, you need to add three members of support groups who are not directly involved in the terrorist attacks but provide the logistics (food, shelter etc). However, they constitute the basis for the replacement of the killed terrorists.
Thus we may have 400 active armed members of terrorist organizations, to which one may add another 800 to 900 persons involved in logistics who constitute the future replacements of those killed.
The specific situation of Kabylia might also explain the resilience of those groups. As Salima Ghazali explains, the combination of two factors should be taken into account.77 The first is that one of the dominant political parties in Algeria (the FFS, predominantly influential in Kabylia) has systematically rejected both the Algerian regime and the Islamist groups. The result is that the local population has seldom cooperated with the security services in fighting against terrorism. This has resulted in a sort of modus vivendi between the armed Islamist groups, which refrain from attacking the locals in exchange for cooperating with the security services. This situation was illustrated by the testimony of a local villager: "We see them, we know where they are, and as long as they leave us alone it’s fine by us, it’s between them and the regime."78 Conversely, according to Ghazali, the Kabylia region dominated by the RCD, a declared opponent of the Islamists and where the patriot groups79 were located, experience attacks from AQIM. The second element related to this lack of co-operation with security services has been aggravated ever since the "black spring" of April 2001, when over 120 young people were killed by Algerian security services during riots. One of the consequences was the withdrawal of the gendarmerie from several areas of the Kabylia region, which allowed the AQIM brigades to move more freely.
Overall, a major change has been taking place in Algeria’s security strategy since 2014, mainly through a return to the eradication policies meant to overcome the limits of National Reconciliation and to counter the emergence of ISIS in North Africa and the Sahel. The rapid rise of ISIS in the Arab world, its extreme radicalism, its successes and the attraction it has exercised on the youth have alarmed the security services, leading them to readapt their strategy, returning to a policy of military force after a decade of a conciliatory strategies. In spite of its undeniable successes, however, the idea that the eradication policy is about to somehow bring terrorism to an end seems hasty, if not far-fetched. According to Farid Alilat, "The remaining groups in Algeria are small, autonomous and constantly moving around in very remote areas, which allows them to hide constantly. This makes it difficult to track them and partly explains their ability to survive."80 However, their potential to destabilize the country is certainly greatly reduced and, to that extent, it can be said that terrorism is largely under control in Algeria. The major threat is considered to come from the "external pressure" — from the eastern border regions, where, in addition to terrorism, all sorts of illicit trafficking (weapons, drugs and people) take place, posing dramatic threats to security. This is why Algeria has followed a double-track strategy that closes its borders and promotes co-operation with regional and national powers to stabilize the situation, while also advocating national dialogues, especially with Libya and Mali. However, there have been major limitations due to competition among the regional powers, differences in strategies among national leaders, and the multitude of local actors, with their diverse agendas and allegiances.
Thus, according to Tewfik Hamel’s analysis, "The regional security environment is still uncertain, ambiguous and complicated. It puts Algeria in a difficult and precarious situation, especially with regard to the abundance of weapons in the region."81 The attempt to hermetically close its borders has so far been successful in preventing terrorist infiltration. However, long-term security will be reached only by a return to stability in the neighboring countries.
1 Al-Mourabitoune, a jihadist movement led by the Algerian Mokhtar Belmokhtar, was created in August 2013 by the merger of Belmokhtar’s Masked Brigade, also known as al-Muaqioon Biddam (Those who sign with blood), created one year earlier, and of MUJAO (Movement for oneness and jihad in West Africa).
2 For a detailed account see, Karim Djaad, Prise d’otages à Ain Amenas: récit d’une opération Kamikaze, Jeune Afrique, February 2013.
3 This event was used as an excuse for a major ‘reform’ of the intelligence services. The most paradoxical one being the removal of General Bachir Tertag shortly after those events in 2013, in order to have him one year later promoted to rank of Adviser and then to Co-ordinator of the Security Service Directorate (DSS), the new name of the Algerian intelligence services since 2016 thus replacing of General Toufik Mediene, head of the intelligence services (ex-DRS) from 1990 until this change.
4 See Hadjer Guenanfa, "Le MDN fait son bilan: 157 terroristes dont dix chefs de al-Mua’qi’oon Biddam neutralisés en 2015," Tout sur l’Algérie (January 2016).
6 Mohamed Berkani, "Daech déclare la guerre à l’Algérie et promet de reconquérir l’Andalousie," Geopolis, July 15, 2015.
7 For more details, see Hakim Darbouche and Yahia Zoubir, "The Algerian crisis in European and US foreign policies: a hindsight analysis," in The Foreign Policies of the European Union and the United States in North Africa: Diverging or Converging Dynamics?, ed. Francesco Cavatorta and Vincent Durac (Routlege, 2010), 41-44. See also Severine Labat, Les Islamistes Algeriens: Entre les urnes et le maquis (Edition du Seuil, 1995), 279-283.
8 For this period, see Labat, Les Islamistes Algeriens; Luis Martinez, La Guerre Civile en Algérie (Éditions Khartala, 1999); Michael Willis, The Islamist Challenge in Algeria (Ithaca Press, 1996).
9 Omar Ashour, "Islamist de-radicalization in Algeria: The case of the Islamic Salvation Army and affiliated militias," in Terrorist Rehabilitation and Counter-Radicalization: New Approaches to Counter-terrorism, ed. Lawrence Rubin, Rohan Gunaratna and Jolene Anne R. Jerard (Routledge, 2011), 19-20.
10 On the same topic, see George Joffé, "National reconciliation and general amnesty in Algeria," Mediterranean Politics 13, no. 2 (2013), 213-228.
11 Interview with a member of the Algerian security services, January 2016 (Algiers).
12 Interview with an Algerian official, September 2012 (Algiers).
13 See Chérif Ouazani, "La réconciliation, dix ans après," Jeune Afrique, January 10, 2010.
15 Interview with Farid Alilat, a journalist at Jeune Afrique and specialist on Algeria’s security issues, October 2016 (Algiers).
16 Nissa Hammadi, "La réconciliation nationale sera élargie à d’autres catégories," Liberté (September 2015).
17 Hadjer Guenanfa, "Lutte antiterroriste: plus de 100 terroristes abattus et de nombreuses saisies d’armes durant les 6 premiers mois de 2016," TSA Algérie, July 3, 2016.
18 Interview with Anis Rahmani, Director of An-Nahar, September 2012 (Algiers).
19 This is an interview given to Algerian television and reported by Farid Alilat in "Algeria: moi, Fatima, femme et mère de terroristes," Jeune Afrique (August 2016).
20 Interview with Alilat.
21 Discussion with a former jihadist in the Sahel, 2012 (Nouakchott, Mauretania).
22 Invoking "the spirit of Kerbala," Isselmou Ould Mustapha makes an analogy with the shi’a concept of martyrdom: Imam Husayn Ibn Ali was killed in the battle of Karbala, in 680, by the Umayyad Caliph Yazid. He became a martyr whose death led to the revolt of the populations, to the ultimate collapse of the Umayyad dynasty and to the schism between Sunni and Shia Muslims.
23 Discussion with Isselmou Ould Moustapha, director of the Mauritanian newspaper Tahalil, August 2014 (Nouakchott, Mauritania).
24 See Mathieu Guidère, "La tentation internationale d’Al-Qaida au Maghreb Islamique," Focus Stratégique (December 2008).
25 Interview with Yahia Abou Hammam, AQIM leader in the Sahel, by Mohamed Abou Al Maâli, director of Nouakchott-Info, October 2012.
26 Chérif Ouazani, "Algérie: Revoilà les Kamikazes," Jeune Afrique (August 2011).
27 "Algérie: 43 missiles enfouis découverts," Le Figaro, February 2, 2012.
28 Georges Malbrunot, "Al-Qaida en Libye: les données qui inquiètent," Jeune Afrique, March 11, 2011.
29 Interview with Anis Rahmani, director of the newspaper Ennahar and AQIM specialist, June 2014 (Algiers).
30 Abou Hafs was the GSPC coordinator and mastermind of the suicide bombings. See Liberté (February 6, 2011).
31 See Ikram Ghioua, "Le terroriste Rabah Makhfi abattu: un coup dur pour AQMI," L’Expression, December 12, 2012.
32 The judicial assistance president for the implementation of the provisions of the Charter for National Reconciliation.
33 Mohamed Boufatah, "20 émirs font partie du lot: 250 terroristes éliminés en deux ans," L’Expression, April 21, 2009.
34 See Benjamin Roger, "Bilan officiel de la guerre au Mali: 63 soldats maliens et 600 jihadistes tués, selon Bamako," Jeune Afrique, March 27, 2013.
35 Interview with Isselmou Ould Moustapha, August 2013 (Nouakchott, Mauritania).
36 Mathieu Guidère, Al-Qaida à La Conquête du Maghreb: le terrorisme aux portes de l’Europe (Éditions du Rocher, 2007), 33.
37 "AQMI rejette le califat proclamé en Irak et en Syrie," Libération, (July 15, 2014).
38 Interview with Yahia Abou Hammam by Mohamed Abou Al Maâli, January 2016 (Nouakchott, Mauritania).
39 "Mokhtar Belmokhtar dément s›être rallié à l›État islamique," Le Point, May 16, 2015.
40 Discussion with an Algerian observer close to the Islamic jihad issues, January 2015 (Algiers).
41 For an in-depth analysis of the difference between al-Qaeda and ISIS, see Dominique Thomas, "État Islamique vs Al-Quaida: Autopsie d’une lutte fratricide," Politique étrangère (Spring 2016).
42 Pierre-Jean Luizard, Le piège daesch: L’État Islamique ou le retour de l’histoire (Les Éditions La Découverte, 2015), 26-27.
43 Stacey Erin Pollard, David Alexander Poplack and Kevin Carroll Casey, "Understanding the Islamic State’s competitive advantages: Remaking state and nationhood in the Middle East and North Africa," Terrorism and Political Violence (December 2015), 9.
44 See Mathieu Guidère, "Le retour du Califat," Le Débat 5, no. 182 (2014), 79-96.
45 ISIS’s proclamation of the caliphate, June 2014.
46 Cited in Raphaël Lefèvre, "Is the Islamic State on the rise in North Africa?" Journal of North African Studies 19, no. 5 (2014), 852-856.
47 Cited in "Que sait-on du groupe qui a revendiqué l’assassinat d’un Français en Algérie?" Le Monde September 23, 2014).
48 Cited in, "Un groupe armé algérien se rallie à l’EI," Le Figaro, September 24, 2014, and in David Thomson, "Assassinat d’Hervé Gourdel: les origines du groupe Jund al-Khilafah," Radio France Internationale, September 26, 2014.
49 Said Rabia, "Procalamation d’Allégeance à Daesch, Attentats terroristes: Questionnements sur la configuration du terrorisme en Algérie," El Watan, July 28, 2015.
50 See Zineb Hamdi, "Une nouvelle Katibet fait allégeance à Daech en Algérie," Tout Sur l’Algerie, May 23, 2017.
51 M. Azziz and L. Mali, "L’Émir d’al-Mourabitoune gravement blessé dans des affrontements," El Watan, June 17, 2015.
52 Interview with Yahia Abu el-Hammam, AQIM leader in the Sahel, by Mohamed Abou Al Maâli, Jannuary 2016.
53 Matt Bauer, "Islamic State’s expeditionary Force in Libya," Centre for Security Policy, November 2014.
54 Cited in Francesca Mannocchi, "En Libye, l’EI cherche à établir ses propres itinéraires de trafic vers l’Europe," Middle East Eye, February 2016.
55 Discussion with an Algerian observer on security issues, January 2015 (Algiers).
56 Discussion with Akram Khrief, head of the electronic media, DIA (Dernières Info d’Algérie), specializing in security issues, October 2016.
57 Farid Alilat, "Algérie: la traque des jihadistes touche-t-elle vraiment à sa fin?" Jeune Afrique, July 18, 2016.
59 Akram Khrief, in Alilat, "Algérie."
60 Discussion with a member of the Algerian security services, January 2016.
61 F. Sofiane, "L’émir de DAECH en Algérie éliminé," Journal le Jeune Indépendant, October 2016.
62 Discussion with a member of the Algerian security services, January 2016.
63 Farid Alilat, "Algérie: un ancien lieutenant du chef d’AQMI abattu par les forces spéciales," Jeune Afrique, October 7, 2016.
64 Interview with Anis Rahmani, director of the newspaper Al-Nahar, June 2014 (Algiers).
65 Interview with a former minister of foreign affairs, June 2014 (Algiers).
66 Interview by Mourad Sellami with Bassel Torjemane, specialist in security issues, "La Tunisie vit sous le risque du retour massif d’anciens combattants de Syrie ou de Libye," El Watan, December 26, 2016.
67 Interview with Alilat.
68 Discussion with an anonymous observer on those issues, November 2016 (Algiers).
69 Discussion in January 2015 (Algiers).
70 E-mail exchange between Dr. Yahia Zoubir, professor at the Kedge Business School, in Marseille, France, and a high-ranking Algerian official, graciously forwarded by Dr. Zoubir to the author.
71 For a detailed analysis of this cooperation, see Abdennour Benantar, "Sécurité aux frontières: Portée et limites de la stratégie algérienne," L’année du Maghreb 14 (2016), 147-163.
73 Interview with a high ranking Algerian diplomat, January 2016 (Algiers).
74 A regional organization created in 2008, supposedly to foster cooperation between the regional states to fight against terrorism under the leadership of Algeria; however, it has proved to be "an empty box" and never really functional.
75 The French have favored a more assertive policy towards armed groups.
76 Cited in Hadjer Guenanfa, "(armée est sur le point de venir à bout définitivement du terrorisme," TSA, November 10, 2016.
77 Interview with Salima Tlemçani, jounalist at Al Watan and specialist on terrorism, October 2012 (Algiers).
78 Discussion with a member of the local village, October 2012.
79 The patriots are paramilitary groups created in the 1990s with the support of the RCD and who played an important role in the fight against terrorism.
80 Interview with Alilat.
81 Cited in Lamine Ghanmi, "Algeria edges closer to fully defeating terrorism," The Arab Weekly, November 20, 2016.