8 February 2013

Algeria Repels Terrorist Attack On Military Barracks

Algerian troops killed two terrorists in a battle with 50 heavily armed militants on Wednesday (February 6th) in Khenchela, El Khabar reported.

The jihadists attacked an army barracks roughly 100km from the Tunisian border. Six soldiers were reportedly injured in the three-hour-long skirmish.

The attack began with the kidnapping of two civilians, including a truck driver who supplied the barracks with food. The supply truck was then used in an attempt to infiltrate the military facility.

After a forceful response from the ANP that included artillery and airstrikes, the terrorists fled towards Mount Boudekhane in Tebessa province. The assailants burned the truck and released the truck driver's assistant. The driver remains missing.

According to El Khabar, the armed group included foreign nationals armed with Libyan weapons. The attackers were divided into two teams, with the first planning to storm the barracks with the truck rigged up to blow up. The second team remained in the back to bombard the barracks.

According to security analysts, the recent uptick in terror attacks shows increasing regional co-operation by jihadists.

"These attacks confirm that al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) obtained Libyan weapons smuggled across the eastern border," security affairs expert Mohamed Samim said.

"These developments confirm the Algerian government's fears about the danger of weapon proliferation in the region and their falling into the terrorists' hands," he added.

According to Samim, the increasing number of operations "confirms that the terrorist organisations are trying to lift the siege imposed on terrorists on the border with Mali".

The Khenchela attack was the third major attack since the start of the year, following on the heels of the Tiguentourine gas plant attack and the assault on a gas pipeline in Bouira.

Algerian troops recently stepped up military operations against AQIM in several areas, including Skikda, El Tarf, Tebessa, Khenchela, Jijel, El Oued and Kabylie, after security agencies learned that sleeper cells would try to launch high-profile attacks such as the In Amenas siege.

A huge military build-up was seen in these areas to carry out large-scale combing operations, and security at checkpoints on the eastern border was beefed up to prevent the infiltration of jihadists via the border provinces.

Meanwhile, officials were keen to reassure the public about the security measures taken to deal with terrorist threats.

Mansouri Belal, head of the provincial people's council in Illizi province, told journalists visiting the gas plant in In Amenas that security enforcements were made to prevent a similar attack on oil facilities or official headquarters in the south. He noted that there was co-ordination with the local population to secure the area and provide the army with information.

In his turn, Kamal Hadef, a journalist specialising in security affairs, said that the recent developments on the border with Mali "force Algeria to beef up its security measures to prevent the infiltration of terrorists".

"It is likely that a number of organisation leaders will try to escape from the war theatre and to wait for the right time to return anew to northern Mali," he added.

"This means that the only solution for them is to try to sneak into Algeria; a fact that the Algerian army forces have to take into consideration so as not to leave them any secure outlet," he said.

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