Attacks threaten Algerian peace drive

An Islamist insurgency has resumed in Algeria after a series of daring attacks on the powerful military, raising questions about the government's drive to bring peace to the north African country.

    President Boutaflika has been promoting national reconciliation

    Some 20 soldiers, paramilitary and police officials were killed and around 40 injured in ambushes over the past week, most attributed to Algeria's top insurgency group linked to al-Qaida.

    The army has launched a massive operation to catch the attackers, but no arrests have yet been made. 

    "The terrorists are doubling in audacity and activity, striking across the national territory and have acquired an incredible assault power," influential independent newspaper al-Watan wrote in an editorial on Sunday.

    "One certitude isn't escaping citizens: the civil concord (amnesty law) hasn't at all achieved its objectives," it said.

    President Abd al-Aziz Boutaflika won a landslide re-election in April on the back of halting much of the conflict ravaging the Arab country for the past 12 years - partly through a law which gave "rebels" amnesty in exchange for surrender.

    More than 150,000 people, mostly civilians, have died since an insurgency began in 1992 after the army scrapped legislative elections which an Islamic party, the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) was set to win, according to human rights groups.

    Boutaflika is now promoting "national reconciliation" to end the conflict but he has given few details of a policy that analysts believe is aimed at a new amnesty for hundreds of insurgents still fighting.

    Government mocked

    Contrary to the wishes of many of its members, leaders of the al-Qaida-aligned Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) fighting for an Islamic state are against any peace move, according to analysts and security experts.

    "The leaders are trying to stop members from defecting and the attacks suggest they're putting down their mark and showing they're a force to be reckoned with," said a Western diplomat.

    But government-critical newspaper Liberte on Sunday attacked the national reconciliation plan as playing into the Islamists' hands and questioned the government's silence over recent killings, particularly the ambush which killed 10 soldiers and injured 16.

    "It's the hour of great fraternity with the Islamists, reconciliation with the throat slitters and (rebel) surrenders," Liberte mocked.
    Foreign investment is coming back and many Algerians are focusing on the fruits of a return to a partial normality as is witnessed by the opening of new businesses such as restaurants. 

    SOURCE: Reuters


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