/ 15 November 2007

Algerian army ‘on road to victory’ over al-Qaeda

The Algerian army is ”on the road to victory” over the Maghreb branch of the al-Qaeda network, responsible for suicide attacks in the North African country, according to a French anti-terrorism expert.

”I am convinced that the Algerian army and security forces are on the road to victory,” said Louis Caprioli in an interview with the Algerian Arabic daily El-Khabar published on Thursday.

”Al-Qaeda in Maghreb has weakened. Before their groups were found in all regions. Today, they are concentrated in certain areas. They are confronted regularly with operations by the army,” he said.

Caprioli, formerly number three at the French domestic intelligence agency, has been a consultant since 2004 for Geos, a company specialising in risk management.

He said the Islamist radical Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) allied with Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network in order to prevent the Algerian militant group from disappearing and to internationalise its fight.

”For its part, al-Qaeda was looking to establish a branch in the Maghreb, but up to now there is not a united command. There are contacts between terrorist organisations and a desire to unify their work. It is not organised,” Caprioli said.

Since linking up with al-Qaeda, the Maghreb branch has introduced suicide bomb attacks that have targeted government and army positions in Algeria, killing more than 100 people between April and October this year.

Caprioli said the Algerian authorities should keep up the pressure on armed groups and continue to push the national reconciliation policy, which has offered the Islamist radicals a pardon for surrendering their arms.

The policy introduced by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has allowed for the release of about 2 200 people convicted of terrorism and the surrender of about 300 Islamist militants. — Sapa-AFP