11 October 2013

Algeria Adopts Tougher Terrorism Laws

Algiers — Algeria is amending legal provisions against terrorists and smugglers.

The new measures will be submitted to parliament for a vote within days, authorities told the press on Monday (October 7th).

The council of ministers already approved the new measures to toughen prison penalties for terrorists and smugglers on September 30th. The proposed amendments came in a move aimed to crack down on insurgents who refuse to lay down their arms under the terms of the Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation.

The new penal code will expand the definition of terrorist acts to actions mentioned in international conventions ratified by Algeria, Justice Minister Tayeb Louh said. Those include the financing of terrorism, attacks with explosive or nuclear materials, damaging air, land and naval navigation facilities, the destruction of communication means and hostage-taking.

These amendments coincide with intensive operations carried out by Algerian security forces and the military against militants and smugglers on the Algerian borders.

Authorities thwarted several smuggling operations from neighbouring countries both on the southern and eastern borders.

In the most recent operations, the Algerian army foiled two attempts by militant groups to infiltrate the country near the border with Mali and Libya last week, killing eight terrorists and recovering weapons and SUVs.

One of the vehicles belonged to "al-Furqan" brigade, affiliated with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Algerian authorities have already sent additional troops and border guards, and established advanced centres of control to fight smuggling in the Maghreb.

Algerian Customs Director Mohamed Abdou Bouderbala said Monday that his administration planned to hire about 5,000 custom officers to remedy the shortage of customs officials at high risk border points.

These crossings recently experienced a significant increase in attempts by international fuel and weapons smuggling networks to penetrate and control the eastern and western borders.

"This phenomenon grew dramatically in recent years," Bouderbala said. This has "forced concerned authorities to move quickly and outline a plan to strengthen the fight against smuggling and reduce the damage caused to the national economy".

Authorities are mainly concerned with enhancing the presence of customs and security along the Algerian borders with its eastern neighbours. Smuggling networks have reportedly exploited the recent turmoil in Tunisia and the renewed intermittent clashes in southern Libya.

The Algerian army announced the arrest of a convoy of 11 SUVs in the border area between Algeria and Mali on Sunday.

The convoy was carrying twenty people, including five foreigners, in addition to smuggled goods, 200 litres of engine oil and 48 quintals of various food items such as flour, sugar, and oil.

Algeria has long turned a blind eye to the smuggling of goods, especially to nearby countries in dire need of food supplies and bare necessities, said academic Mohamed Samim.

However, drugs are a different story.

The National Office for the Fight against Drugs and Addiction announced it seized 127 tonnes of cannabis during the first eight months of 2013. Director Mohammed Zogar described the situation as "worrisome".

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