Algiers — After decades fighting Algerian authorities, a leading al-Qaeda figure is laying down arms.
The emir of al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb's (AQIM) El Forkane Brigade surrendered to Algerian security forces on Monday (October 1st) after spending more than 20 years on the run.
Heddad Fodhil, alias Abou Dedjana, turned himself into the Algerian army in Ouadhias, Tizi Ouzou province, east of Algiers, according to APS.
The 45-year old Abou Dedjana was one of the oldest members of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), having joined terrorist groups in the 1990s. He was active in Sidi Ali Bounab forest before he was sent to the mountainous areas in Tizi Ouzou.
After Abdelmalek Droukdel (aka Abou Moussaab Abdelouadoud) became emir of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), which later became AQIM, Abou Dedjana was appointed emir of the El Forkane Brigade in 2008. His predecessor had turned himself in to authorities and renounced armed action.
Local media sources said that the emir of El Forkane Brigade was with his top lieutenant Faudel. The surrender reportedly took place following contacts between the al-Qaeda leader and security authorities through intermediaries from his family.
Djazair News reported that Abou Dedjana established contacts with the security authorities about two months ago to facilitate his surrender. Two days earlier, he escaped an operation carried out by the security agencies to arrest him when he was with a militant, in which the security agencies managed to arrest his companion, but failed to arrest Abou Dedjana himself. However, he later decided to turn himself in together with his personal weapon.
Abou Dedjana oversaw the collection of money that the terror network was receiving from kidnappings in Kabylie. He also supervised the training of militants in making traditional bombs.
Merouane Azzi, who chairs the judicial assistance unit responsible for implementing the Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation, said that 8,500 terrorists have turned themselves in and renounced armed action to benefit from the 2005 Peace and National Reconciliation Law.
Azzi added that since 2006, security and army forces managed to take out 1,600 terrorists, including a number of prominent leaders in AQIM. He said that the Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation has significantly contributed to the decline of terrorist groups' operations. As proof, he said that there were only 216 victims in 2011, the lowest number of terrorism victims in recent years, compared to 1,058 victims in 2007.
Many wanted terrorists who turned themselves in have benefited from reduced terms, including suspended sentences, under the Peace and Reconciliation Law. The law also approved a pardon for members of armed groups in return for their surrender, the laying down of their arms and their repentance of armed action.
For his part, Farouk Ksentini, President of the National Consultative Committee for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (CNCPPDH), said that this would encourage the terrorists who desire to turn themselves in and are still hesitant. He also described the adopted policy as "very fruitful and an effective solution for breaking the backbone of terrorism and destabilising terrorist groups".
In a related development, the Algerian Interior Ministry said in a statement that 24 people suspected of providing material and support to AQIM-affiliated armed groups were arrested in the last 24 hours in Tebessa province.
The arrests were the second operation of its type in which the Algerian security authorities arrested a network providing support for al-Qaeda in Tebessa province, close to the Tunisian border. On August 14th, the security authorities dismantled a 14-member network, including two women, providing support and funds to terrorist groups.