Algeria: Dread In The Desert


August 25, 2009: The government is touting its ability to keep the Islamic terrorists down as an opportunity for foreign tourists to return. But older travelers, who remember Algeria before the 1990s violence, will note that the Islamic radicals have left their mark. There is hardly any place in the capital to get a drink. There used to be dozens of bars and cafes that served alcoholic beverages. But as part of the deal to disband most of the terrorist groups, the government had to impose more religious restrictions on the general public. If the tourists can be persuaded to return, special bars in tourist hotels can serve the infidel foreigners. Meanwhile, the boozing has gone private for Algerians, as it tends to do in Islamic countries that ban public drinking. The alcohol ban has been a blessing for smugglers and purveyors of illegal goods. Meanwhile, corruption, and residual terrorist activity continue to discourage investment in tourist facilities. Algeria has had a bad reputation to tourists for a long time, and it will take years to overcome that.

Police are catching armed Islamic radicals in places they have not been seen for years. Three were killed earlier this month, 250 kilometers east of the capital, in an area with popular beaches and recreational facilities. Islamic militants had not been seen in the area for over a decade. But the intense army and police activity in the usual terrorist haunts has forced the Islamic radicals to seek new hideouts.

While China has brought much cash, and vigor, to the construction industry (building roads and other public works), there are strings attached. The Chinese insist on being allowed to bring Chinese in to do much of the work, along with other Chinese who are free to establish businesses. In a pattern repeated in many other parts of Africa, and the world, the more diligent and efficient Chinese soon start putting local merchants and companies out of business. The local businessmen are complaining, and want the Chinese competition banned.

The desert area, where the borders of Mauritania, Mali, and Algeria meet, has become the new base area for Islamic terrorists driven out of northern Algeria (where most of the people live). Bringing money and new ideas to existing rebel groups in Mauritania and Mali, the Algerian radicals have created a growing threat. But the African nations involved have joined together to deal with the problem. The Islamic radicals our hiding out in a wilderness, which has poor communications (both electronic and for travelling).

August 16, 2009: Mauritania is sending 4,000 troops to the desert areas near the Algerian border. Here, the troops will seek out and destroy terrorist camps.

August 15, 2009:  Islamic terrorists attacked a police observation post a hundred kilometers east of the capital. One policeman was killed, and two others wounded.

August 12, 2009:  In the east, five more Islamic radicals surrendered and accepted the amnesty. Some 200 kilometers southeast of the capital, police killed three Islamic terrorists.

August 8, 2009: In Mauritania, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the French embassy. Three other people were injured, only the bomber was killed. Police identified the bomber, and found out he was a resident of the capital, who was recruited by Islamic terrorists and indoctrinated in a camp out in the desert.



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