Middle East

Terrorist Groups in Algeria

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Rescue workers Algiers. Images: Fayez Nureldine/Agence France-Presse—Getty Images 

With the recent bombings in Sri Lana on Easter Sunday, Tactics Institute questions the state of extremism around the globe, starting with the history of conflict in Algeria.


Algeria has had a considerable amount of terrorist activity since 1991 due to their Civil War.

The war was also referred to as ‘the dirty war’, so called because of the sheer amount of civilian casualties including journalists. The growing Jihadi/western conflict has naturally spurred defensive antagonist actions – to join forces.  Whether it’s the amalgamation of similarly aggravated casualties of war becoming allies or the official unification of two nations to combat such conflict. Male pride is never absent from this game of lives and will maintain its rigidity to save face regardless of morale; this may be part of the problem.  We also find emotional scars that are left when families on either side of the conflict suffer fatalities, these cause a deep-rooted pain adding to the cause of the unending personal beef.

In 2016 Algeria’s intense actions to destroy terroristic movement in its country continued while making strong efforts in policing to deter action within its urban centres.

The known groups are mainly Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb or AQIM, AQIM allied groups, and elements of ISIS such as the Algerian branch:  JAK-A, Jund al-Khalifa in Algeria (Soldiers of the Caliphate in Algeria) and The Armed Islamic Group (GIA: Groupe Islamique Armé).

These groups were active in and along the borders of Algeria. Their goal was quite clearly to establish their idea of Islamic law, while at the same time destroying security services, and local government targets as well as all forms of Western interests.

GIA was one of the two main Islamist groups that fought the Algerian government in the Algerian Civil War. It was the amalgamation of smaller armed groups that came together after the 1992 military coup and arrest of thousands of officials in the (Islamist) Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) party after that party won the first round of parliamentary elections in December 1991. It was led by a succession of commanders who were killed or arrested one after another.

In December 2012, military commander of AQIM, Mokhtar Belmokhtar (The One-Eyed, Nelson, The Uncatchable), announced he would leave AQIM to command his own organisation Al-Mulathameen (“Masked”), also known as the Brigade and the al-Mua’qi’oon Biddam (“Those who Sign with Blood” Brigade). On November 15th, 2016 a French airstrike claimed his life. His death was confirmed by the US.

In 2016 JAK-A took responsibility for attacks on security forces, including two attacks that claimed lives. The Algerian government continued to thwart the JAK-A’s ability to function within the area, nevertheless, AQIM persisted with bombs and faking roadblocks to ambush. At the end of 2016, it is reported that there were 36 terrorist attacks including projectiles striking two gas plants in the southern Algerian desert, Krechba. AQIM openly stated and claimed the attacks. Following this, in April four soldiers were killed in the Constantine province. Later in the year, ISIS killed a policeman in Constantine, in the east; AMAQ, the propaganda arm of ISIS, claimed their involvement.

Still, as late as August 2017, 2 police officers were killed during a suicide attack on the regional police headquarters building in Tiaret, 130km south-west of Algiers. Daesh is reported to have claimed responsibility. Then in December in Algiers in the mid-north, twin car bombs close to the United Nations offices and an Algerian government building were detonated killing dozens of people. 26 deaths had been confirmed by the Algerian Interior Ministry. AQIM claimed responsibility, showing photographs online of the two suicide bombers who carried out the attacks which were aimed at “the Crusaders and their agents, the slaves of America, and the sons of France.”


To Counter


The Government of Algeria monitors inbound and outbound flights and studies visitors travel documentation, yet they do not collate biometric info. The country uses a computerized fingerprint identification system, engages in training, and are skilled in identifying fraudulent documents. The Government also used INTERPOL channels, alerts, and diffusion notices to stay informed of suspicious travelers at all borders: land, sea, and air.

Today Algeria’s terrorism has decreased. The terrorist struggle in the 1990s and 2000s seems to have curtailed, especially since the last Al-Qaida-related attack was in 2017. It cannot be said that the reasons are strictly because of security or efforts to heavily monitor the borders of Algeria. It is very likely that remedying political inconsistencies in the country’s security services that had previously ended in differences in law enforcement and the fundamentals of security could be major factors. The government was also in opposition regarding counterterrorism policies between 1999 and 2010.

Meanwhile, the terrorist groups were left waiting to decide strategies against such an unclear objective; it seems seeking prospects elsewhere would be more productive towards their covert bloody agenda.

Since 2010 AQIM found interest in Mali, Chad, and Niger. Although there have been a handful of Islamic State-inspired attacks in recent years none equalling the past.

AQIM continues to urge its supporters to continue the Algerian fight but it’s unlikely that they will manage to revive their power in Algeria but giving up would be to destroy the heart of their very purpose and admit the triumph of counterterrorism efforts.


Today’s Algeria

Algerian Protestors. Image: S.G.

Young Algeria is clearly in pursuit of a more stable country with a more democratic expression and free from corruption.  The recent resignation of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, three weeks ago,  following anti-government protests, marked the end of his 20-year reign and shows a country hoping to veer in a very different direction.

This Friday, young enthusiastic protesters will be gathered outside the Grand Poste, and in the central square.  They are inspired to create something more productive than their predecessors. The post office is a French colonial landmark and in some sense a symbol of their independence. Having escaped from colonial rule in 1962, Algerians are fighting for their independence all over again, this time from a hate regime.