Saturday, April 6, 2013

Algerian governor escapes Al-Qaeda assassination

Medea wali Brahim Merad on Wednesday (April 3rd) survived an assassination attempt by al-Qaeda terrorists in the Algerian city of Mezghena.
Terrorists opened fire on police officers who were securing the route for the governor's convoy going to an event. One police officer was killed and two others were wounded and were taken to a hospital in Tablat.

There are conflicting reports as to what happened, El Watan noted. One of the newspaper's sources said that terrorists started shooting into a crowd of people they thought were surrounding the governor.

The other report said that the terrorists started shooting because they grew impatient from waiting for the governor's arrival.

The governor's convoy remained relatively distant from the place where the fire-fight took place and the governor withdrew after the security forces intervened.

The operation was followed by a bomb blast targeting an Algerian army vehicle that rushed to the scene directly after the attack. However, no soldiers were wounded and there were no material losses.

The terrorists seized four civilian vehicles and fled after forcing the owners out of their vehicles. The owners were later found tied up on the road.

Ennahda Movement Secretary-General Fateh Rebai condemned the terrorist attack that targeted Medea governor and his accompanying delegation.

In a statement, the movement called the attack a cowardly criminal act, and that such cowardly attacks could bring Algeria back to blood and fire.

The statement also urged the authorities to deal with all reasons of social and political tensions that some exploit to manipulate young people and throw them into the cycle of violence and terrorism.

"Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) always seeks to target the symbols of state… to show that it still can inflict harm," Mohamed Smiem, an academic specialising in security affairs said.

"Although the terrorist operations have recently dropped, the group is always seeking to carry out attacks… It wants to send a message to national and international public opinion that it still has the ability to launch painful blows," he added.

He noted that the group chose this area for this operation due to the rough terrain there and the mountains surrounding the road that the local official was supposed to take, in order to make the chase difficult.

This was not the first time that AQIM targeted senior Algerian officials. In 2007, terrorists targeted the Tizi Ouzou governor, and in 2012, former Illizi governor Mohamed Laid Khelfi was kidnapped by a group affiliated to Abdelhamid Abou Zeid.

The Illizi governor was taken to Libyan soil and was freed after the central authorities in Tripoli intervened.

The operation occurred the same day Algerian authorities released a list of 57 terrorists, they said would likely carry out suicide attacks. Algerian newspaper Ennahar published the list with pictures.

The group includes one woman and two Libyans who have been wanted since the end of 2011. The newspaper added that orders were given to all security authorities to publish the pictures of terrorists, names and aliases to facilitate their identification.

By Walid Ramzi in Algiers for Magharebia – 05/04/2013

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