Country Report on Terrorism 2018 - Chapter 1 - Algeria

Overview: The United States and Algeria enjoyed close counterterrorism cooperation and had regular dialogue to discuss and coordinate counterterrorism efforts, exchange expertise, and strengthen the existing counterterrorism partnership.  Algeria continued its significant efforts to prevent terrorist activity within its borders.  Algerian armed forces and internal security forces published figures to show the continued pressure on terrorist groups, indicated by the considerable increase in numbers of terrorists surrendered, compared with 2017, and a comparable number of arms caches and hideouts that were destroyed in sweeping operations.  Some analysts assessed that continuing losses have substantially reduced the capacities of terrorist groups to operate within Algeria.  Al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (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 significant pressure.  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, and Tunisia – as well as human, weapons, and narcotics trafficking – contributed to the overall threat, particularly in border regions.

Algeria actively supported the effort to counter ISIS through counter-messaging and capacity-building programs with neighboring states. Algeria is a member of the GCTF and co-chaired the GCTF’s West Africa Region Capacity-Building Working Group with Canada in 2018.

2018 Terrorist Incidents:  AQIM continued attacks using IEDs, bombings, and ambushes.  The Algerian government maintained a strict “no concessions” policy with regard to individuals or groups holding its citizens hostage.  Terrorist attacks in 2018 included the following:

  • On February 14, five soldiers were reported killed and others seriously injured in a roadside IED blast in Ferkane, in northeastern Algeria near the Tunisian border. Four days later, AQIM claimed responsibility on social media for the attack as retaliation for the eight terrorists who were killed on January 26 by the Algerian army in Chechar, a small town in northeastern Algeria.
  • On July 30, an IED blast killed seven soldiers and wounded 14 others who were conducting a sweeping operation near Skikda, a coastal city east of Algiers.  In the skirmish that followed, four terrorists were killed and one was captured.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security:  Algeria made no significant changes to its counterterrorism legal framework in 2018.

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. In 2018, media reported that the Algerian army instituted a series of intensified security measures along its borders, including fences, observation towers, surveillance equipment, and drones.  Algerian and Tunisian customs and law enforcement officials continued to coordinate along their shared border, including conducting a joint maritime exercise.  The Government of Algeria closely monitored passenger manifests of inbound and outbound flights.  Government officials made active use of INTERPOL databases leading to at least 25 arrests based on INTERPOL Red Notices.

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.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism:  There were no significant changes in 2018. Algeria is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF). Its FIU, known as the Financial Intelligence Processing Unit, is a member of the Egmont Group, the international body of FIUs that engage in secure information-sharing to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.

For additional information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.

Countering Violent Extremism:  Algeria pursues a whole-of-government approach to CVE, including rehabilitation and reintegration programs for repentant terrorists.  Stressing the importance of an inclusive society, the Foreign Ministry published a booklet in 2018 on The Role of Democracy in the Fight against Violent Extremism and Terrorism. 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 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.  There have been complaints the government 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 counterterrorism efforts through regional and multilateral organizations.  As co-chair of the GCTF’s West Africa Region Capacity-Building Working Group, Algeria hosted that group’s plenary meeting in November along with a Police Cooperation Workshop.  Algeria has taken a leadership role in AFRIPOL, the Algiers-based African Union mechanism for police cooperation, whose mandate is to enhance African police cooperation and prevent transnational crime and terrorism.  Algeria hosted the AFRIPOL general assembly, donated the communication and data system for AFRIPOL to all member states, and spearheaded memoranda of understanding with other police organizations (e.g., INTERPOL and Europol).

Algeria continued positive diplomatic engagement to promote regional peace and security.  Algeria chaired the implementation committee for the peace accord in Mali and continued to press stakeholders to support the UN political process in Libya.  Algeria also participated in various Sahel-Saharan forums to discuss development and security policies and the evolution of regional terrorism.