Algeria thwarts Cherchell bomb plot
By Walid Ramzi for Magharebia in Algiers – 16/08/12
Algerian security services recently foiled a plan by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb for a suicide attack against Cherchell Joint Military Academy, the largest military school in the country.
Several newspapers reported Tuesday (August 14th) that the plan was halted after the arrest of a young man taking photographs of the vicinity and entrances to the academy located in Cherchell, Tipasa, which lies 70 kilometres west of the capital.
Citing security sources, the papers said that the 16-year old suspect was originally from the state of Oran in the west of the country. He informed investigators that he was tasked by Abu Hassan, one the emirs of the salafist group "Houmat Al Daawa", to capture images of the various entrances and exits of the academy in order to plan a suicide attack.
The arrest occurred on the first anniversary of an attack carried out by motorcycle-born suicide bombers against the academy that left 18 people dead, including officers and foreign military advisers.
Unlike last year, Algeria has not seen major terrorist attacks during the month of Ramadan. Authorities say the reduction in terrorist operations indicates extremists' waning ability to attract new recruits, as well as a successful counter-terror campaign.
"The decline in the pace of terrorist operations is due more to poor organisation than to the choice of keeping secret," according to Interior Minister Daho Ould Kablia. "This will most likely be on-going until strict security is reduced. It is common that terrorist groups insist on carrying out terrorist operations of any kind during the month of Ramadan, especially the month's last ten days."
In a press statement, he described the security situation since the beginning of Ramadan as "stable and enduring", but refused to guess the number of terrorists still active in the mountains. Ould Kablia said that all indications point to a reduction in the number of terrorists.
Last July, National Police Director-General Major General Abdulghani Hamel pointed out the reduction of the ability of terrorist groups to recruit young people. The director-general said that his services had not recorded new recruits joining terrorist groups, adding that he considered terrorist activity in the cities to be almost non-existent.
Despite the success of Algerian security forces in tightening the noose on groups targeting major cities, some inland areas – especially the Kabylie region – have witnessed terrorist operations during the month of Ramadan. Multiple attacks were reported in the provinces of Bouira, Boumerdes and Tizi Ouzou, all located east of Algiers.
Security affairs expert Omar Wali said terrorists were targeting the Cherchell academy because it was "the centre of gravity of the military structure in Algeria".
Wali said it was the decline in suicide attacks and the failure of terrorist groups to target vital centres that makes them seek religious occasions such as Ramadan - and exactly the last ten days of the month - to launch operations. Such attacks would confirm that the extremist organisations are still able to strike at military fortifications as well as win media attention, according to the security expert.
He noted that terrorist groups have used this time to recruit young people from outside the region to monitor movements in and around the academy. This was a mistake in itself since the boy didn't know the region and hence raised the attention of security agents, Wali said, adding that the error was evidence of the decline in the ability of terror groups to recruit.
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