Magharebia (Washington DC)

Algeria Takes Part in '5+5' Counter-Terror Drill

Algiers — A regional air defence exercise just wrapped up between Algeria, Morocco and several European states.

The Algerian military took part in multinational counter-terrorism air drills last week as part of the 5+5 defence initiative.

The "Circaete 2012" exercise was staged Tuesday (October 30th) with other Maghreb and European states. The sixth annual operation aimed at boosting the combat capabilities of air forces in thwarting operations that terrorist groups may try to carry out using hijacked civilian aircraft.

Meanwhile, control and surveillance was intensified at Algerian and European airports. Different security authorities co-ordinate efforts through contacts that would allow the identification of people who may constitute a threat to aviation.

The drill, which was managed from the Air Defence Operations Centre in Réghaia, east of Algiers, was conducted under the supervision of senior Algerian air force officials along with their counterparts from Morocco and other participants.

The exercise scenario involved two cargo planes, one from Morocco and the other from Algeria, entering the air space of countries concerned, simulating a non-military air threat in the area of mutual concern to the 5+5 defence initiative.

Chase planes intercepted the two "suspicious" planes in the scenario, using the standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. The six-hour drill was capped with a work session held with the participating crews to evaluate the drill.

Colonel Omar Sarhan, head of liaison cell in Algeria's air defence forces, said that the drill "was implemented in two separate phases at the same time". The member-states that participated in the drill were divided into two groups: one related to the "eastern" part, which Algeria, Tunisia, Italy and France, and one related to the "western" part, which included Morocco, Spain and Portugal. Col. Sarhan noted that the aim of the drill was "to ensure continued co-operation in air security and peace as per the applicable guide for joint measures". He said that the other goals of the drill were "to support lessons learned from previous drills, and to boost co-operation and co-ordination in managing and dealing with a real case representing an air terrorist threat".

"The military drills in which Algeria took part for the 6th time are aimed at assessing the preparedness of the Algerian air force and its ability to deal in faster way with any terrorist threat involving the use of civilian aircraft," Tahir Bin Thamer, a former Algerian army officer, told Magharebia.

He added that these drills also "allow them to evaluate the level of co-ordination between countries to combat air terrorism or cross-air terrorism and attempts to infiltrate the air space with the aim of undermining regional countries' defences".

Bin Thamer said that such continuous co-operation between the countries concerned confirms "the commitment of member-states in this group to work together and consult in areas of mutual concern, while taking into consideration the security concerns of each partner in this initiative".

Security authorities already enforce strict measures at Algerian airports, especially Algiers International Airport, the country's busiest in terms of passenger traffic. Such measures enabled the authorities to thwart three attempts to divert Air Algerie aircraft in the last five years.

The Algerian security authorities have also compiled a list of names of persons constituting a threat to aircraft safety. The list is updated regularly in co-ordination with foreign security authorities to thwart any attempt by suspicious elements to infiltrate airplanes taking off from Algerian airports.

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