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Country Reports on Terrorism 2021: Algeria

(February 27, 2023)

Overview:  The United States and Algeria built their CT partnership through regular dialogue and exchanges of technical expertise.  Algeria continued its significant efforts to prevent terrorist activity within its borders using continual CT operations to arrest and eliminate terrorist suspects, dismantle and disrupt terrorist cells, and destroy hideouts, arms, and other equipment.

These operations, particularly those that eliminated leaders and high-profile members of terrorist groups, substantially diminished their already-limited capacities to operate within Algeria.  Al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and allied groups, ISIS’s Algeria branch, and the local group Jund al-Khilafah in Algeria (Soldiers of the Caliphate in Algeria), remained in the country though in ever-smaller numbers, as they have been unable to attract new recruits or significant new resources (or in some cases, may have relocated to Mali, an easier operating environment).  These groups did not conduct any attacks in 2021.  In January, the Algerian Ministry of Defense declared that 2021 would be decisive in eliminating the last terrorist “remnants” from the country, and in private and public comments throughout the year some Algerian officials have asserted that Algeria has “defeated” terrorism.  Embassy Algiers assesses that the country’s security forces could credibly reduce the likelihood of domestic terrorist threats to a negligible level within the next 18 months.

Terrorist activity in Libya, Mali, Niger, and Tunisia — as well as human, weapons, and narcotics trafficking — contributed to the overall threat, particularly in border regions. Algeria’s security apparatus increasingly focused its CT capacity on preventing these elements from projecting into Algeria.  Additionally, in 2021 Algerian authorities targeted more frequently the Berber separatist Movement for the Self-Determination of Kabylie and the Islamist movement Rachad, which the government designated as terrorist organizations in May.  The United States considers these designations more political than security focused, as both groups are highly critical of the government and do not appear to have committed what the United States defines as terrorist acts.  In CT-related engagement with the United States, Algerian authorities have notably refrained from discussing these groups or the alleged threats they pose.  The government occasionally charged individuals with terrorism-related crimes for activities that appeared to constitute expression and peaceful activism.

2021 Terrorist Incidents:  Algeria-based terrorist groups did not conduct any domestic attacks in 2021.  According to the Algerian Army’s yearly report, it neutralized 23 terrorists, arrested 222 terrorists and their supporters, and discovered and destroyed more than 50 terrorist caches and almost 100 homemade bombs and other weapons during CT operations in 2021.  Algerian security forces sometimes clashed with violent extremists during these operations, occasionally suffering casualties.  While the United States does not assess either to be a terrorist incident, Embassy Algiers has noted two incidents below that are noteworthy for their number of fatalities:

  • Three Algerian soldiers and six terrorists, as defined by Algeria, were killed in clashes during search operations in Tipaza Province on January 2 and 3.  Sporadic clashes have erupted in the Tipaza region, where the mountainous terrain serves as one of Algeria’s last refuges for violent extremists.
  • Five persons died and three were wounded when a truck carrying a group of hunters struck a homemade IED on a remote dirt road in the eastern Tébessa province on January 14.  While initial reports by Algerian authorities and media labeled the incident a “terrorist attack,” the government subsequently released no evidence to suggest the explosion was purposeful or targeted.  We assess it was likely old ordnance intended as a defensive measure for the small number of AQIM militants who remain in the area.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security:  In 2021, Algeria amended its penal code to broaden the definition of terrorist acts and to create a national list of terrorist individuals and entities.  The government used the new amendments to detain political activists and outspoken critics of the government. The Algerian judicial system tried and convicted numerous terrorists and their affiliates, and the government maintained its strict “no concessions” policy with regard to individuals or groups holding its citizens hostage.

Algerian military forces and multiple law enforcement, intelligence, and security services addressed CT, counterintelligence, investigations, border security, and crisis response.  The Ministry of National Defense’s public announcements provided timely reporting on incidents during which its forces captured or eliminated terrorists, dismantled terrorist cells, and seized equipment and arms.

Border security remained a top priority.  Algeria and Tunisia continued close CT cooperation to target ISIS strongholds in the border area and signed bilateral agreements concerning extradition and mutual legal assistance in December.  The Algerian government closely monitored passenger manifests of inbound and outbound flights.  In September, Algeria officially created a National Unit of Passenger Information registry to process and store international passenger information to prevent and counter terrorism and transnational organized crime.  This registry supplements Algeria’s national API/PNR strategy and commission and its Passenger Information Unit, which operates under the General Directorate of Customs.  Government officials made active use of INTERPOL databases at ports of entry.

Algerian law enforcement agencies participated in training and exchanges offered by the U.S. government and by third countries.  Algerian participants attended numerous workshops conducted under the auspices of the GCTF, the UN, the EU, the African Union (AU), and other multilateral organizations.

 Countering the Financing of Terrorism:  Algeria is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENATATF).  In 2021, the government passed an executive decree to strengthen and refine the country’s FIU, known as the Financial Intelligence Processing Unit, which is a member of the Egmont Group.

Countering Violent Extremism:  There were no significant changes in 2021.

International and Regional Cooperation:  Algeria continued to support CT and security efforts through participation in international, multilateral, and regional organizations.  It engages actively with UN affiliates such as UNODC and the United Nations Office of Counterterrorism.  The country is an active member of the GCTF and co-chairs the GCTF’s Capacity Building in the West Africa Region Working Group, hosting and participating in numerous workshops and working group meetings.  Algeria plays a leading role in CT-related matters in the AU.  The nation hosts, in Algiers, the headquarters of Afripol and the AU’s Center for Study and Research on Terrorism.  In September, the AU’s Peace and Security Council adopted Algeria’s proposed “action plan” to address growing violent extremist threats in the Sahel.  Algeria remains chair of the implementation committee for the peace accord in Mali and continues to support the UN political process in Libya.  Algeria also hosted and participated in various Sahelian-Saharan fora to discuss development and security policies and the evolution of regional terrorism.  Regional tensions between Morocco and Algeria remained an impediment to bilateral and regional CT cooperation.

Source: Country Reports on Terrorism 2021, U.S. Department of State, (February 27, 2023).