Algiers — ANP troops are on heightened alert along the Mali border ahead of possible African military action in Mali.
The Algerian army recently raised the alert level for units stationed along the southern frontier in preparation for a West African intervention in Mali, Ennahar reported Sunday (November 18th).
As part of a broad protective plan, commanders were reportedly told to mobilise military vehicles and heavy equipment to border areas in Adrar, Tamanrasset and Illizi provinces.
Authorities have also stepped up security measures around public departments, military barracks and vital companies, particularly oil concerns. The increased alert level is aimed at thwarting any potential terrorist attack.
Southern Algeria has been repeatedly targeted by al-Qaeda linked militants based in northern Mali, including the Tamanrasset suicide bombing carried out by the Movement for Tawhid and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO).
The decision to step up security was taken to prepare for any possible military action by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in northern Mali. ECOWAS recently approved a plan to deploy 3,300 troops to the country.
Algerian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Amar Belani said in a press statement that his country would take measures to protect its interests in case a military intervention occurs in northern Mali, confirming that these decisions were sovereign and no one was dictating them to Algeria.
He added that Algeria was prepared for all possible scenarios to protect its border, noting that the closure of land border with the region known as Azawad was possible. He added that Algeria would take preventive measures based on the possible developments in the region, and accordingly, it would take all that it deems necessary to defend its interests.
The Algerian defence ministry has also demanded its branches to draw up special security plans and to refer them to the general command for review, and to focus in these plans on monitoring the border and the areas that are usually used by the terrorist groups to target government headquarters in the south.
Since the outbreak of crisis in Mali, Algerian authorities have implemented a variety of security measures along the border with Mali and Libya.
On November 15th, ANP forces reportedly managed to thwart an attempt to smuggle at least 38 missiles heading to Mali from Libya.
According to El Khabar, authorities received information about the delivery of a shipment of Katyushas and Strela surface-to-air missiles to an armed group in the Gon Orie area of northern Mali, near the Nigerien border.
Algerian forces intercepted the smugglers near Inifique, on the border with Mali. Two all-terrain vehicles were destroyed, causing a massive explosion. A third vehicle loaded with 10 Katyushas and mortars was recovered. One suspect was arrested while the others fled, leaving behind the bodies of two colleagues. A heavy anti-aircraft gun was also destroyed during the operation.
The missiles were monitored as they left Fezzan in southern Libya, the Algerian daily quoted a security source as saying. The ordnance was likely headed to al-Qaeda and affiliated groups in Azawad, the paper said.
In addition to the border security measures, authorities are cracking down on MUJAO and other groups attempting to recruit Algerian youths.
Tamanrasset authorities recently dismantled a cell attempting to pay young people to fight in northern Mali.