5 March 2014

Algeria: Election Looming, Algeria Hunts Down Terrorists

Photo: Summit Photo
President Abdelaziz Bouteflika arriving at a G8 summit (file photo).

Algiers — As Algeria prepares for the April 17th presidential election, Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal urged militants to renounce armed action and benefit from the reconciliation charter, which he said was still effective.

Since last Saturday, army units launched a wide military campaign that resulted in the deaths of at least six terrorists, according to the official count.

Algerian troops on Monday (March 3rd) took out two terrorists during a sweep of the forests of Sidi Ali Bouneb, located between the wilayas of Tizi Ouzou and Boumerdes. ANP troops found anti-tank rockets, bombs, guns and ammunition, the defence ministry said. The weapons were smuggled from Libya, according to Tout sur l'Algerie.

At the same time, Algerian special operations units thwarted an attempt by terrorists to smuggle 47 rockets from Libya to northern Mali through Algeria and Niger. An Algerian army special operations unit seized 30 Katyusha rockets and 17 Strela surface-to-air missiles, El Khabar reported February 23rd.

Sellal made his appeal for peace during a February 26th visit to Boumerdes, a hotbed of terrorist activity. The premier also met with local elected officials and civil society representatives.

"I'm bringing to you a message from the president, and you have to understand that his hands are still extended for good and reconciliation," the prime minister said.

"We want reconciliation and good, but we're saying to those [i.e. terrorists] that you have made a mistake against the Algerian people and you have to review your positions because Algeria has set sail and there will not be a return to lean years and regret," he noted.

Some 8,500 militants have benefited from the Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation since it was implemented in 2006. During the same time, security forces killed 1,600 terrorists.

Journalist Mohamed Adnan said that through his call in Boumerdes, the Algerian prime minister was eyeing Islamists' votes by confirming that the reconciliation project was still in effect.

"Each time Sellal appears, he tries to highlight the major role that President Bouteflika has played in achieving peace and reconciliation, and in this way, he is indirectly calling on people to vote for Bouteflika, who has enabled Algeria to restore peace," he added.

In his turn, lawyer Merouane Azzi said that the prime minister's call was part of "efforts made by the state to stop bloodshed and realise security".

"At the same time, the counter-terrorism policy is still being implemented," Merouane said, adding that that the Algerian authorities realised there were some who had yet to benefit from measures approved under the charter, something that could prompt them to take additional steps to advance reconciliation.

Meanwhile, Islamists, particularly members of the dissolved Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), see the next presidential election as an opportunity to re-present their demands in return for supporting a candidate who will respond to them.

El Hachemi Sahnouni, a FIS leader, said in an interview with Ennahar daily that "a large number of former leaders of FIS plan to support candidate Abdelaziz Bouteflika in the next presidential election, provided he abides by some demands."

He explains that the most important of those is the actual and strict application "of the national reconciliation law and its serious and gradual implementation before it turns into amnesty for all the cases that took place in Algeria throughout the past period".

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