By Walid Ramzi
Algerian security services recently aborted an arms smuggling operation along the border with Niger.
“Forces belonging to the fourth military province were able on January 3rd, 2012 to intercept a convoy on the Algerian-Nigerien border, made up of four four-wheel drive vehicles transferring Africans trying to pass a shipment of weapons and ammunition,” a statement from the defence ministry read.
The weapons included “71 Kalashnikov assault rifles, 38 machine guns, 2 RPG-7s, four 14.5mm pistols, five rifles with telescopic sight, 16 machine guns, 8 guns, and a large quantity of ammunition of various calibres”, according to the statement.
“The process, as part of the fight against terrorism and its associated phenomena, was fully successful with no losses among the ranks of the Algerian army,” the source added.
In December, the army prevented an attempted infiltration from Libya to Tounane, destroying a number of SUVs carrying armed individuals of unknown nationality. Security forces also aborted an infiltration from the north of Niger, which resulted in the killing of two gunmen.
The country’s southern border witnessed “security enhancements following the developments in Libya, and the risks brought about by the exodus of thousands of people and the movement of weapons outside the border”, according to Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci.
“It was natural to give Libyans an opportunity to secure the borders on their side, and do the same thing on ours,” he told a state radio station.
In recent months, the army has deployed forces in the border states of Illizi and Tamanrasset. Ground forces, consisting of infantry, gendarmerie and special troops, gathered in the areas along the borders with Libya and Mali. The army adopted a new ambush strategy in desert corridors against smugglers and terrorists.
Furthermore, ANP forces launched a large-scale clean-up operation in desert sites on the mountains of Tassili (in the south of Algeria), in search of smugglers and arms dealers in the south. The military received information that smugglers and mercenaries had buried large quantities of weapons smuggled from Libya in locations near the city of Djanet.
Security forces also managed to uncover Libyan Kalashnikovs buried near Ajbaran, after arresting a group of arms smugglers on the border. Some of the detainees admitted that there were weapons buried in other locations, most probably in scattered areas in the mountains and valleys of Tassili.
The army decided to close down 30 secret corridors for smuggling weapons in desert areas along its borders, an Algerian security source told El Khabar. Security forces also began implementing a new military dissemination scheme to prevent the infiltration of terrorists and smugglers, the same source told the Algerian daily.
“The army leadership blocked the main infiltration routes through which smugglers and terrorists would pass, within the framework of a joint security plan with Niger and Mali, allowing armies to monitor secret passages in the desert so as to reduce the movement of terrorist groups in the Sahel”, according to the source.
Algerian authorities last year arrested 87 Libyans, caught in the acts of smuggling weapons or prohibited materials for terrorist groups. The detainees identified the pathways through which infiltration to the Algerian border takes place. The gathered intelligence helped dismantle a number of networks engaged in transferring weapons and drugs.