Algeria Takes a Hard Line to Halt Fanatics' Sharia Dream; ANALYSIS

Article excerpt

Byline: GITA SUBRAHMANYAM North Africa expert at the LSE

ANYONE wishing to understand the Algerian government's actions needs to understand it has a long history of dealing with armed insurgents.

The al-Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb - the loose predecessor of the group claiming responsibility now - emerged during the country's civil war in the 1990s.

Algeria's policy for dealing with militant groups is hard line, including non-tolerance, non-recognition, non-negotiation and eradication. The government believes this policy helped it win the civil war, which ended in 1999 with the disarmament of most insurgent groups.

AQIM is viewed as a "residual terrorist" group, the main violent armed threat in the territory. Military action has driven it from its north Algerian base to the desert south, where it formed links with other radical groups in Mali and Niger.

In order to establish a sharia state in Algeria, AQIM seeks to discredit and attack the country's secular leaders and their Western allies. To funds operations, it smuggles drugs, vehicles and weapons, and has made tens of millions of dollars in ransom money from kidnappings. …