MEA Risk LLC reports that four more Islamic insurgents surrendered to the army in the province of Tamanrasset in Algeria this week in a series of surrenders boosted by the military call for amnesty for those willing to give up the insurgency. The militants who surrendered this week were identified as Mouaouia, Djaber, Abu Said and Abu Moussa, who joined al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) between 2012 and 2015. A steady number of Algerian insurgents based in Mali and southern Algeria are surrendering to benefit from amnesty and clemency offers, after the military command reiterated the offer earlier this year. So far this year, more than 30 militants turned themselves in.
MEA Risk’s Critical Incidents Tracker says sweeping operations in Tebessa, Jijel, Sidi Bel-Abbes, Medea, Bouira, Chlef, Batna and Ain Defla allowed the discovery of 34 insurgent hideouts and 41 homemade bombs. There are currently more than 2,000 troops on the ground in Tebessa, in an operation to neutralize an AQIM group composed of a dozen militants. This group is said to have planted a bomb which exploded in a forested area, wounding one senior officer earlier this week.
At the Libyan border, the army conducted a simulation exercise during which a Russia-made TOS-1A multiple rocket launcher system was used for the first time in its history. Used against the Islamic State in Syria, this system allows suppressing enemy active actions for a long time period at considerable areas.
On the political front, this week, Abdelaziz Bouteflika has made his second public appearance in one month. The President appeared more tired than usual, and remained silent as he visited the Algiers Grand Mosque worksite, and inaugurated an Islamic school in Bir Khadem. These visits have led analysts to speculate about a possible announcement of his candidacy for the 2019 elections.
On the social front, a protest held by at least 4,000 resident doctors in Oran was dispersed by the police, who resorted to the use of force. Several protesters were wounded. The intervention occurred when the resident doctors started using anti-government and anti-police slogans. In Constantine, a sit-in protest was also held, but no incidents were reported. Similarly, in Algiers, thousands of resident doctors staged a protest inside Mustapha Bacha hospital, and urged the President, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, to intervene and help solve the crisis.
In Bouira, the police and gendarmerie blocked hundreds of retired and disabled army men in Bouira from driving to Algiers, where they intended to hold a protest to demand an increase in pensions. This caused important traffic jams in the area of Hammam el Biban.
In all, there were 69 critical incidents in Algeria in the period between May 10 and 16, 2018, resulting in five deaths and 319 arrests, including 228 immigrants, 26 drug traffickers, 31 contraband smugglers and four Islamic insurgents.
More insurgents are expected to surrender in the south, as the army continues to reinforce the security apparatus at the Malian and Libyan borders, due to a deterioration in security in the neighboring countries. In Mali, ten attacks have been reported in the north in the last week, while in Libya inter-tribal clashes in the southern city of Sebha are fueling new concerns about insurgent movements toward Algeria.
In the northeast, a large-scale counter-terrorism operation is taking place in Tebessa, where an army officer was wounded in the explosion of a homemade bomb. The army are combing the area for IEDs, after 41 bombs were discovered in eight provinces this week.
On the political front, during his latest public appearance, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika failed to reassure the population about his health condition, as he remained silent and appeared sluggish throughout his visits. In spite of this, rumors of a possible 2019 bid continue to build. The reaction of Algerian social media users was vehement, as a large number of people believe that the President is being “held hostage” by the regime, which seeks to remain in power for at least five more years.
Elsewhere, after the violent dispersal of the march held by resident doctors in Oran, further protests are likely in the next few weeks. The civil society and several NGOs are likely to join the protests, as the union of resident doctors, Camra, reached out to them to gain legitimacy and raise awareness about the crisis. Camra has also called on President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to help them reach an agreement with the Ministry of Health.
In Illizi, the Tuareg community is expected to start a protest movement, in the light of the recent raids conducted by the police in Djanet and In Amenas. The Tuaregs denounced a “crackdown” during a visit of the Interior Minister, Nouredine Bedoui. A few days later, tribe leaders warned that if the situation continues, tribesmen would take to the streets.