Algeria steps up southern border security
By Mouna Sadek for Magharebia in Algiers – 12/07/12
With tensions escalating in the neighbouring countries, Algeria is taking extra measures to secure its southern borders.
Three thousand soldiers, with helicopters and fighter aircraft, were deployed as reinforcements along the borders with Libya, Mali and Niger, El Khabar reported on Sunday (July 8th).
Ground transport of goods between the countries appears to have been suspended and those crossing the border must now have authorisation from the Algerian authorities, according to the Algerian daily. Security has also been ramped up in oil and gas producing regions.
In an interview with Quotidien d'Oran, Interior Minister Dahou Ould Kablia invoked the possibility of closing the border with Mali.
The June 29th suicide attack against the Algerian national gendarmerie headquarters in Ouargla, claimed by al-Qaeda splinter group Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), seemed like a declaration of war to the Algerian people. One policeman was killed and three injured.
The attack aimed to "punish" the Algerian authorities for "pushing" the MNLA to "go to war against the Mujahideen" in northern Mali, according to the MUJAO statement.
Algeria, however, continues to back a political solution to the Malian crisis. The issue of military intervention is dividing the country's political spectrum. Former military officer and political analyst Mohammed Chafik Mesbah told El Khabar that a diplomatic solution is impossible since it implies talks with all parties, including the Islamist groups who have chosen terrorism.
"It would be illogical to wait for these groups to be ready to meet around the table for negotiations for a peaceful solution," he said, adding that the Malian conflict will only come to an end by force.
Meanwhile, university lecturer Dr. Makhlouf Sahel described the idea of a military intervention as "meaningless".
"The situation is very dangerous and, in the case of military intervention, it would be even more so," he told Magharebia. "It would inevitably develop into a catastrophic scenario. Combined with the violent situation prevailing in Libya, it would most certainly grow into unrest throughout the region and the break-up of Mali."
Algeria supports "a political solution to the Malian crisis, based on respect for Mali's territorial integrity and the return of the rule of constitutional law", according to Sahel.
Many Algerians oppose any intervention of their army in Mali.
Engineer Samir Lacete told Magharebia that "intervention" is a euphemism for "war". "That is something we don't need," he said. Still, he welcomed the initiative to secure borders.
For his part, primary school teacher M'hand Idir admitted that he didn't know "the ins and outs of the Malian crisis", but feared that a military involvement in Mali would "bring its big northern neighbour to sink along with it".
"We've had ten years of terrorism," he said. "God knows, that's enough!"
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