Algeria (1992 - First Combat Deaths)


Last Updated: January 11, 2019


The Conflict at a Glance

Who (are the main combatants): With the support of Mali, Mauritania, and Niger and in cooperation with the United States, the United Kingdom, and France, the Government of Algeria is fighting al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and its various branches.

The terrorist organization Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (now AQIM) was founded in 1988 by Hassan Hattab, a former commander of Armed Islamic Group (Groupe Islamique Armé, GIA).

Al-Qaeda affiliates, the Signed in Blood Battalion, were responsible for the January 2013 expatriate hostage crisis at the Ain Amenas gas facility. Tensions and competition between Berber (Mozabite) and Arab groups living in the MʹZab Valley have also led to intercommunal violence.

What (started the conflict): The Algerian civil war began in December 1991 after Algeria’s first multiparty elections. The Algerian army staged a coup and cancelled elections after the first round brought a decisive victory for the Islamic Salvation Front (Front Islamique du Salut, FIS). In 1992, the military removed President Chadli Bendjedid from office and dissolved Parliament. A period of extreme violence followed, with tens of thousands of FIS supporters killed. In the midst of this turmoil, an insurgency developed as various actors, including the GIA, fought for control of the state.

Although President Aldelaziz Bouteflika has brought increased stability since his election in 1999, AQIM is still a major threat to stability in Algeria. Amendments to the Constitution allowed President Bouteflika to run for third and fourth terms, despite internal opposition. Protest group Barakat (“enough”) opposed President Bouteflika’s latest re-election in 2014.

In recent years, high unemployment, poor housing conditions, and soaring food prices have led to widespread social unrest. In 2010, there were many riots and violent encounters between protestors and police. With protests against economic marginalization continuing into early 2011, the government made some economic concessions and managed to quell popular uprisings. Analysts suggest that Algeria’s generous welfare budget has helped to prevent the widespread social unrest that began with the 2011 Arab Spring. However, many southern communities remain impoverished and poorly integrated into the mainstream Algerian economy. They have been largely excluded from the economic prosperity of private firms and government from the extraction of southern oil and shale gas resources (International Crisis Group).

When (has fighting occurred): In early 1992, violent political clashes developed into insurgency, which began a “dirty war” that lasted until 2002. Medium-intensity conflict continued until 2009, when increased counterterrorism efforts began to reduce levels of fighting. President Bouteflika lifted the state of emergency in 2011. Although security forces have dismantled many militant networks in recent years, AQIM members have continued bombing campaigns, arms trafficking, and kidnapping. In January 2013, AQIM took over the Ain Amenas gas plant, capturing dozens of foreign hostages and killing 40, before Algerian Special Forces retook control of the facility. Demands and violence grew with the heightened economic insecurity and austerity that arose with the collapse of global oil prices in 2013 and 2015. This period of 2013 to 2015 also saw heightened intercommunal tensions and violence between Berber (Mozabite) and Arab groups living in the MʹZab Valley located in the Sahara Desert.

Where (has the conflict taken place): Insurgents often attack the northern capital of Algiers, as well as Algeria’s northeast and along its northeastern border with Tunisia. The government is deeply concerned about the spillover of conflict from bordering Mali to the south and Libya to the southeast. The 2013 hostage crisis took place at the Ain Amenas gas facility in eastern Algeria, 30 kilometres from the border with Libya. Since 2013, unrest has occurred in Tamanrasset and Ghardaia in the south, and in Algiers.

Type of Conflict: State control

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Map made by Ben Skinner

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