By Walid Ramzi
Algerian authorities are reinforcing security along the country’s southern borders. The move comes as the international community prepares a response to the Mali crisis.
”Our military and security forces have taken all necessary measures,” Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal announced during a Parliamentary session last Wednesday (October 17th).
“We have trained troops and no threats will undermine our national territory,” he added. “Troops have been deployed to secure the borders.”
As for the situation in Mali, the prime minister explained, “Algeria wants to avoid having a den of terrorists on its borders”. He said Algeria does not want “a perpetual den of insecurity”, adding that the country’s position on the Mali crisis was “very clear”.
Algeria fears fallout from a possible military campaign in northern Mali. The region is already suffering from hundreds of thousands of displaced refugees and in an influx of foreign jihadists.
Faced with instability in Mali and Libya, Algeria is moving to tighten security. Major General Ahmed Boustila, Commander of the National Gendarmerie, made field visits to several provinces in the south of Algeria including Ouargla, El Oued and Ghardaia on Wednesday. A day earlier he visited the border province of Tamanrasset.
Last March, Mali-based terrorists from al-Qaeda splinter group Movement for Tawhid and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) carried out a suicide bombing targeting the National Gendarmerie headquarters in Tamanrasset.
According to a statement from the Gendarmerie Command, during the first nine months of the year, seventeen new units were formed and deployed at to the provinces bordering Libya. In addition, thirteen new facilities were inaugurated this month for gendarmerie units in provinces bordering Mali.
The defence ministry is also taking steps to strengthen border security under agreements with countries in the region. The borders will be constantly covered by ground units specialised in guerrilla warfare along with several Special Forces battalions. This announcement came after a meeting in Niger earlier this month, attended by military leaders and intelligence officials from Algeria, Mali, Niger and Mauritania.
Algeria’s defence ministry has also formed an operation room tasked with following developments in Mali.
El Khabar reported that the army’s General Staff organised the operation room in Tamanrasset, to monitor activities of jihadists in northern Mali. The operation room will draw on multiple sources of intelligence, providing the armies of the region with preliminary information on the situation.
Those measures coincided with the launch of a security crackdown aimed at dismantling support networks for Tawhid and Jihad in the farthest part of southern Algeria. Four men were arrested October 14th in the area of Bordj Badji Mokhtar in Tamanrasset wilaya, accused of supporting the terror group. Army units also raided several houses of people suspected of having ties with terrorists.