Terrorist Attack in Algeria – Compilation of articles by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies

By Africa Center for Strategic Studies
Updated: 01/22/2013

Please note: The following news items are presented here for informational purposes. The views expressed within them are those of the authors and/or individuals quoted, not those of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, the National Defense University, or the Department of Defense.

Today’s News

At least 37 hostages killed in Algeria gas plant standoff, prime minister says
At least 37 hostages died in the terrorist seizure of a natural gas facility in eastern Algeria and the subsequent special forces assaults on it, the country’s prime minister said Monday. Five other hostages are missing from the In Amenas complex and could be dead, Prime Minister Abdul Malek Sallal said. Before Sallal’s statement, officials from other countries and companies that employed foreign workers at the sprawling plant had confirmed 29 hostage deaths. CNN

US: three citizens dead in Algeria hostage drama
The United States confirmed Monday that three of its citizens were among the foreign workers who died last week in an attack by Islamist hostage-takers on an Algerian gas plant. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said seven more Americans survived the drama at the In Amenas site, and identified those killed as Victor Lynn Lovelady, Gordon Lee Rowan and Frederick Buttaccio. AFP

Jihadists’ Surge in North Africa Reveals Grim Side of Arab Spring
As the uprising closed in around him, the Libyan dictator Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi warned that if he fell, chaos and holy war would overtake North Africa. “Bin Laden’s people would come to impose ransoms by land and sea,” he told reporters. “We will go back to the time of Redbeard, of pirates, of Ottomans imposing ransoms on boats.” In recent days, that unhinged prophecy has acquired a grim new currency. In Mali, French paratroopers arrived this month to battle an advancing force of jihadi fighters who already control an area twice the size of Germany. In Algeria, a one-eyed Islamist bandit organized the brazen takeover of an international gas facility, taking hostages that included more than 40 Americans and Europeans. The New York Times

Algeria vows to fight Qaeda after 38 workers killed
Algeria’s prime minister accused a Canadian of coordinating last week’s raid on a desert gas plant and, praising the storming of the complex where 38 mostly foreign hostages were killed, he pledged to resist the rise of Islamists in the Sahara. [...] Sellal said a Canadian citizen whom he named only as Chedad, a surname found among Arabs in the region, was among 29 gunmen killed and added that he had “coordinated” the attack. Another three militants were taken alive and were in custody. Among hostages confirmed dead by their own governments were three Americans, seven Japanese, six Filipinos and three Britons; others from Britain, Norway and elsewhere were listed as unaccounted for. Reuters on The Chicgo Tribune

Mokhtar Belmokhtar: the world’s most wanted
Is there a moment in the life cycle of a terror group when it overreaches itself? Is that what Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the one-eyed “Untouchable”, the Terror of the Sahara, has just done? Part of the success of nomad leaders of desert guerrilla groups derives from the romantic allure of the outlaw; Belmokhtar became rich because he not only kidnapped and smuggled but also ensured that his victims were handed back safely to their countries, once ransoms had been paid. The Telegraph

Algeria hostage crisis: Most weapons used in attack came from Libya
Many of the Islamist terrorists shot their way into the In Amenas compound on Thursday using the AK104 model of Kalashnikov, which was typically used by Libyan rebels in the war against Muammar Gaddafi. They brought F5 rockets that also surfaced in the Libyan war, said the security source. The Islamists wore the same type of outfits that Qatar provided to Libyan National Transitional Council rebels by Qatar – yellow flak jackets with brown patches, known as “chocolate chip” camouflage. The garments are copies of ones worn by Americans in the Gulf war. The Telegraph

Algeria Defends Tough Response to Hostage Crisis as Toll Rises
The prime minister of Algeria offered an unapologetic defense on Monday of the country’s tough actions to end the Sahara hostage crisis, saying that the militants who had carried out the kidnappings intended to kill all their captives and that the army saved many from death by attacking. But the assertion came as the death toll of foreign hostages rose sharply, to 37, and as American officials said they had offered sophisticated surveillance help that could minimize casualties, both before and during the military operation to retake a seized gas field complex in the Algerian desert. the New York Times

The Eradicateurs: Why Algeria doesn’t talk to terrorists – even if that means killing hostages
[...] Algeria’s experience with Islamist insurgency during the 1990s defines its response to events today. During that conflict, a debate emerged within the Algerian government about how to deal with the violent Islamists. One side favored a negotiated solution. The other, known as the eradicateurs, said killing the Islamists was the only approach. The eradicateurs won — and they still remain in the drivers seat in today’s Algeria. Foreign Policy

France defends Algeria over hostage crisis response
France’s foreign minister on Sunday defended Algeria’s handling of a hostage crisis at a desert gas plant, saying the death toll in an assault on the hostage-takers was “very high” but authorities had faced an “intolerable situation”. Reuters

‘Algerian Style’: Cooperative, To A Point
The Algerian government gave no advance notice that it was planning to launch a military operation to rescue hostages at the remote In Amenas natural gas field, despite offers of support and advice by many nations, including the U.S. The anger and disappointment in Washington is muted, however, because the U.S. sees Algeria as a critical ally in the fight against terrorism. NPR

Terror Threat Prompts U.S. Rethink on Africa
The White House has promoted a strategy of keeping as light a U.S. footprint as possible in Africa, focusing on training and funding local militaries and providing logistical and intelligence support to African Union-led combat operations. But events in Mali, Algeria and other countries are now spurring a reconsideration of the military role the U.S. should take on the continent, U.S. officials said. The White House and African analysts have voiced fears that a more direct U.S. role could weaken local governments and further inflame Islamist extremism. U.S. officials have also questioned the direct national security threat posed by such Africa-based militants as AQIM, Somalia’s al-Shabaab militia and the Lord’s Resistance Army in central Africa. The Wall Street Journal

Panetta: US Will Work With Africans to Fight al-Qaida
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the United States will continue to work with Algeria and other African countries to fight terrorists. The secretary spoke in London after Algerian troops had launched a second attack against gunmen holding hostages at a natural gas facility, resulting in additional deaths. Information from Algeria was sketchy when Secretary Panetta and his British counterpart Phillip Hammond spoke to reporters Saturday afternoon. But Panetta said the best way to fight al-Qaida groups like the one in Algeria is to help local governments maintain control of their territory and deal with terrorist attacks when they happen. VOA

Algeria Attack Poses a Dilemma for Western Oil Companies
With this week’s hostage debacle in Algeria — which killed 23 oil workers and 32 hostages, and ended in a fiery assault on Saturday — international energy companies operating in the region are left grappling with an urgent question: Can they keep their personnel safe amid the region’s political upheaval amplified by the conflict in Mali, where French forces have intervened to stop government forces being overrun by jihadist militants? Time

Islamists behind Algeria attack vow more strikes
An Al-Qaeda linked group which shocked the world with its audacious hostage attack in Algeria threatened on Sunday to stage strikes on nations involved in chasing out Islamists from neighbouring Mali. The stern warning, published by the Mauritanian news agency ANI, appeared to be targeted at France — which is leading the offensive in Mali against jihadists occupying the north — as well as nine African nations that have pledged troops to join the campaign, and anyone else helping out. AFP

David Cameron: fight against terrorism in north Africa may last decades
David Cameron said the fight against terrorism in north Africa would go on for years or “even decades” as he announced that a total of six Britons were thought to have died in the Algerian hostage crisis. Three British nationals are known to have been killed, and three more were missing presumed dead, Cameron said in a statement from Chequers on Sunday morning. A British resident is also presumed to have been killed. A further 22 Britons involved in the crisis at the In Amenas gas facility survived and have returned to the UK. The Guardian

What are Western and African powers up against in Mali, Algeria?
Today in Algeria, authorities are scouring a Saharan gas plant for bodies in the wake of a hostage crisis that ended in a shootout between the Army and Islamist kidnappers. Around the world, leaders are vowing to strike back hard at Islamist militancy that is surging across North Africa. Meanwhile, in neighboring Mali, France is already leading a military intervention to dislodge Islamist fighters who seized the country’s north last year. Paris has pledged to keep its troops there until those fighters are defeated and Mali is returned to stability. So what are Western governments and their North African partners up against? It’s a murky picture, but here are some outlines: CS Monitor

Europe’s Challenge: A Terrorist Homeland in North Africa
Dozens of hostages have reportedly been killed after Algerian forces attempted a rescue operation at a natural gas complex overtaken by Islamist gunmen. The incident demonstrates the brutality and determination with which militant Islamists in North Africa operate, just a short plane ride south of European soil. Spiegle

The Algeria Incident and Counterterrorist Strategy
[...] The best way the incident in Algeria can lead to productive policy thinking is not so much to dwell on the details of that one event (and may we all be spared anything like the endless fixation on the incident last year in Benghazi). Rather, it is to use the event as a prod for searching examination of larger assumptions about counterterrorist strategy and about such things as the backlash that one’s own actions may generate. The National Interest

Algeria says 11 Tunisians among 32 Islamist hostage-takers
Eleven of the 32 Islamist gunmen who attacked a remote desert gas complex in southeastern Algeria seizing hundreds of hostages were Tunisian, Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal said on Monday. “Eleven Tunisians and three Algerians were among the group of 32 terrorists who attacked the Tiguentourine gas complex last Wednesday,” Sellal told a news conference in Algiers, where he gave a final death toll from siege of 37 foreigners and an Algerian. Middle East Online

Morocco terror risk spikes
The deadly conflict now unfolding in Mali between armed Islamists and an international military coalition seems far removed from Morocco. But with al-Qaeda working to foster ties with distant extremist circles, the active recruiting of Moroccan jihadists brings the Mali crisis perilously close to the kingdom. In late December, the Moroccan judicial police broke up an al-Qaeda cell in Fez. The group’s goal: to “enrol and recruit young Moroccans who have embraced jihadist ideas, in order to send them to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) camps”, the interior ministry said. Magharebia

Algeria: Travel Warning
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Algeria. This replaces the Travel Warning for Algeria dated September 13, 2012, to update information on the current security situation in Algeria, the continuing threat posed by terrorism, and to reiterate information on security incidents and recommendations on security awareness. U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs