Magharebia (Washington DC)

15 January 2014

Algeria to Bolster Border Surveillance

Algiers — Algeria just launched a programme to enhance its military monitoring capabilities.

Recently deployed troops will ensure border safety until the arrival of new sophisticated surveillance assets, such as drones. The high tech tools will be sent to trouble spots, which have now become a security concern for Algerian authorities.

Defence ministry officials on Thursday (January 9th) discussed "the role of scientific research in developing and modernising armies", highlighting some international experiments in revamping defence systems using modern technology.

An unnamed defence ministry colonel who took part in the meeting said that a project was under way to manufacture infrared cameras for border surveillance, Echorouk reported on Friday.

Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaid Salah on January 7th presented developments on the border to President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, detailing the measures taken to deal with such threats.

Algeria was seriously negotiating with Russia to purchase 30 E95 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to monitor Algeria's 6,386-kilometre long land border, El Watan quoted military sources as saying.

The arms deal is worth 5.1 billion dinars (47.5 million euros).

The Algerian officials are also conducting negotiations with China to purchase Xianglong UAVs.

This type of UAVs was successfully tested in Tamanrasset in the southernmost tip of Algeria.

Three years ago, the Algerian defence ministry initiated a study to determine whether it would be possible to supply the southern border with electronic surveillance systems.

These would alleviate the burden faced by border guard units and thousands of soldiers in monitoring Algeria's borders using traditional methods.

For months now, Algerian army's units have bolstered their presence in border areas with Mali, Niger and Libya.

Algeria had launched a security plan following the start of the French military campaign against jihadist groups in Mali, and later bolstered its efforts after the terrorist attack on the Tiguentourine gas complex.

These efforts enabled the authorities to thwart several attempts to smuggle arms and terrorists into Algeria.

Algeria also enhanced its security co-operation with Tunisia and Libya to confront threats along their joint borders.

The defence ministry said the Algerian army on Thursday arrested 17 people and intercepted a convoy of vehicles laden with weapons, ammunition and food in Illizi en route to Mali.

The ministry also reported that authorities killed three Islamist militants a day earlier near Kadiria in Bouira province. Three Kalashnikovs, a large quantity of ammunition, SIM cards and mobile phones were seized.

The operation was part of a series of blows dealt to al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) by the Algerian army last year in which 225 terrorists were killed in different provinces of the country.

Meanwhile, 27 terrorists announced their repentance and said they would stop armed action.

Retired military officer Taher bin Thamer said that the military authorities' decision to obtain advanced capabilities to monitor the border was "dictated by security considerations".

"Everyone is now convinced that the traditional monitoring of border by deploying units doesn't always give the desired results," he said, adding that combating terrorism in the region requires advanced surveillance assets.

Meanwhile, he stressed the need for co-operation and information sharing among neighbouring countries.

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