Country Report on Terrorism 2019 - Chapter 1 - Algeria

Overview: The United States and Algeria built on their CT partnership through regular dialogue and exchanges of technical expertise. Algeria continued its significant efforts to prevent terrorist activity within its borders and remains a difficult operating environment for terrorist groups. Algerian armed forces and internal security forces published figures that showed continued pressure on terrorist groups. In 2019, the Algerian government increased the number of arrests of terrorists or terrorist supporters compared with the previous year and undertook a comparable number of operations to destroy arms and terrorist hideouts. Some analysts assessed that Algeria’s steady drumbeat of sweeping operations substantially diminished the capacities of terrorist groups to operate within Algeria. AQIM, AQIM-allied groups, and ISIS’s Algeria branch – including elements of the local group known as Jund al-Khilafah in Algeria (or Soldiers of the Caliphate in Algeria) – remained in the country but were under considerable pressure by Algerian security authorities. These groups aspired to impose their interpretations of Islamic law in the region and to attack Algerian security services, local government targets, and Western commercial interests. Terrorist activity in Libya, Mali, Niger, and Tunisia – as well as human, weapons, and narcotics trafficking – contributed to the overall threat, particularly in border regions.

Algeria’s domestic efforts to defeat ISIS through counter-messaging and their capacity-building programs with neighboring states indirectly contribute to the Global Defeat-ISIS Coalition mission. Algeria is a member of the GCTF and co-chaired the GCTF’s West Africa Region Working Group.

2019 Terrorist Incidents: Neither AQIM nor ISIS conducted any attacks in Algeria in 2019, although media reported that, on January 16, an unidentified terrorist group killed a lone shepherd in Tarek Ibn Ziad, a mountainous area about two-and-a-half hours southwest of Algiers. Several clashes, however, took place between terrorists and security forces during sweeping operations in which AQIM and ISIS primarily used IEDs and small arms. Algerian armed forces clashed with terrorists in 2019 in the following operations:

  • On November 6, Algerian forces killed three members of a terrorist group in Tipaza, west of Algiers. Five Algerian soldiers were reported killed in the skirmish.
  • On November 18, Algerian forces killed two alleged ISIS members during an operation along the southern border with Mali. ISIS media outlets characterized the same incident as an attack killing eight Algerian troops.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Algeria has made no significant changes to its CT legal framework since 2018. The Algerian government maintained its strict “no concessions” policy with regard to individuals or groups holding its citizens hostage.

Algerian military forces and multiple law enforcement, intelligence, and security services addressed counterterrorism, counter-intelligence, investigations, border security, and crisis response. These included the various branches of the Joint Staff, the Algerian army, 140,000 members of the National Gendarmerie, and border guards under the Ministry of National Defense (MND); and about 210,000 national police, or General Directorate of National Security, under the Ministry of Interior. Public information announcements from the MND provided timely reporting on incidents during which MND forces captured or eliminated terrorists and seized equipment, arms, ammunition caches, and drugs.

Border security remained a top priority. Media reported on continued cooperation between Algeria and Tunisia including a joint Algerian-Tunisian terrestrial and aerial force military operation against ISIS strongholds in the border area, resulting in the destruction of terrorist hideouts and homemade bombs. The Government of Algeria closely monitored passenger manifests of inbound and outbound flights. Algeria also has a national API and PNR strategy and is setting up an API/PNR commission. As of this year, Algeria has a Passenger Information Unit operating under the General Directorate of Customs. Government officials made active use of INTERPOL databases at ports of entry.

Algerian law enforcement agencies participated in training and exchanges offered by the U.S. government and by third countries. Algerian participants attended numerous workshops conducted under the GCTF, the UN, and other multilateral organizations.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Algeria is a member of the MENAFATF. Its FIU, known as the Financial Intelligence Processing Unit, is a member of the Egmont Group. There were no significant updates in 2019.

Countering Violent Extremism: Algeria pursues a whole-of-government approach to CVE, including rehabilitation and reintegration programs for repentant terrorists. The regulation of mosques to ensure they are “de-politicized” and “de-ideologized” is a key aspect of the Algerian approach. Algeria acknowledges the crucial role of women and families in CVE efforts, and of its mourchidates, female Muslim clerics who work with young girls, mothers, and prisoners. The Algerian government monitors mosques for possible security-related offenses and prohibits the use of mosques as public meeting places outside of regular prayer hours. Government officials publicly affirm Algeria’s Sunni Maliki tradition of Islam, which they believe provides a “moderate” religious vision for the country. The government periodically imposes restrictions on other variants of Islam for failure to abide by administrative procedures required of all religious institutions.

International and Regional Cooperation: Algeria continued to support CT efforts through regional and multilateral organizations. As co-chair of the GCTF’s West Africa Region Capacity-Building Working Group, Algeria participated in joint working group meetings with other GCTF elements. Algeria has taken a leadership role in AFRIPOL, the Algiers-based AU mechanism for police cooperation, whose mandate is to enhance African police cooperation and prevent transnational crime and terrorism. In 2019, Algeria hosted the AFRIPOL general assembly and the first meeting of heads of national AFRIPOL liaison offices. Algeria also hosted the AU’s annual CVE focal point representatives meeting at the Algiers-based African Center for Study and Research on Terrorism.

Algeria continued diplomatic engagement to promote regional peace and security. Algeria remains chair of the implementation committee for the peace accord in Mali and continued to support the UN political process in Libya. Algeria also participated in various Sahel-Saharan fora to discuss development and security policies and the evolution of regional terrorism. Regional tensions between Morocco and Algeria remained an impediment to bilateral and regional CT cooperation in 2019.