Overview: The United States and Algeria built on their counterterrorism (CT) partnership through regular dialogue and exchanges of technical expertise. Algeria continued its significant efforts to prevent terrorist activity within its borders and as a result remains a difficult operating environment for terrorist groups. Algerian armed forces and internal security forces published figures that showed continued pressure on terrorist groups, conducting a steady drumbeat of operations to arrest and eliminate terrorist suspects, dismantle and disrupt terrorist cells, and destroy hideouts, arms, and other equipment. These ongoing operations significantly degraded the capacities of terrorist groups to operate within Algeria. AQIM and ISIS’s Algeria branch remained in the country but were under considerable pressure from Algerian security authorities. The elimination of several leaders and high-profile members of terrorist groups inside and outside of Algeria, particularly AQIM, further diminished their capacity. These groups aspire to impose their interpretations of Islamic law on the region and to attack Algerian security services, local government targets, and Western interests. Terrorist activity in Libya, Mali, Niger, and Tunisia — as well as human, weapons, and narcotics trafficking — contributed to the overall threat, particularly in border regions.
Algeria’s domestic efforts to defeat ISIS through counter-messaging and their capacity-building programs with neighboring states contribute to the Global Defeat-ISIS Coalition mission.
2020 Terrorist Incident: On February 9 an individual conducted a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) suicide attack targeting a military outpost in southern Algeria, near the border with Mali, killing himself and one Algerian soldier. ISIS took credit for the attack, the first of its kind in Algeria since 2017, in retaliation for an earlier Algerian CT operation against the group.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: There were no significant changes to Algeria’s CT legal framework in 2020. The Ministry of Justice established a small unit to prosecute international terrorism and transnational crime and started investigating its first case in November. In 2020 the Algerian judicial system tried and convicted several terrorists and their supporters. The government maintained its strict “no concessions” policy with regard to individuals or groups holding its citizens hostage.
Algerian military forces and multiple law enforcement, intelligence, and security services addressed counterterrorism, counterintelligence, investigations, border security, and crisis response. These included the various branches of the Joint Staff, the Algerian army, the National Gendarmerie, and border guards under the Ministry of National Defense (MND); and the national police, or General Directorate of National Security, under the Ministry of Interior. Public information announcements from the MND provided timely reporting on incidents during which MND forces captured or eliminated terrorists, dismantled and disrupted terrorist cells, and seized equipment, arms, ammunition caches, and drugs.
Several clashes took place between terrorists and security forces during sweeping operations in which AQIM and ISIS primarily used IEDs and small arms. On March 7, a homemade bomb exploded during an army sweeping operation in Chlef, killing two soldiers, and on June 20 a corporal was killed in a clash with an unidentified likely AQIM-aligned terrorist group in the Aïn Defla province, during which an alleged terrorist surrendered to Algerian forces. A homemade bomb exploded during an army sweeping operation in Médéa province on June 27, killing two soldiers. Algerian forces killed three alleged terrorists — one of them a high-profile leader — during a December 1 operation in the northeastern province of Jijel. An army sergeant was killed in the operation.
Border security remained a top priority. Media reported on continued close CT cooperation between Algeria and Tunisia targeting ISIS strongholds in the border area, resulting in the destruction of terrorist hideouts and homemade bombs. The Algerian government closely monitored passenger manifests of inbound and outbound flights. Algeria also has a national Advance Passenger Information (API) and Passenger Name Record (PNR) strategy and has established an API/PNR commission. Algeria has a Passenger Information Unit operating under the General Directorate of Customs. Government officials made active use of INTERPOL databases at ports of entry.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Algeria is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF). Its FIU, the Financial Intelligence Processing Unit, is a member of the Egmont Group.
In December the Algerian government approved the creation of a new regulatory and technical committee to assess Algeria’s money laundering, and terrorism and weapons proliferation financing risks.
Countering Violent Extremism: There were no significant changes in 2020.
International and Regional Cooperation: Algeria continued to support counterterrorism efforts through regional and multilateral organizations. Algeria is a member of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) and, as co-chair of the GCTF’s West Africa Region Capacity-Building Working Group, participated in joint working group meetings with other GCTF elements. Algeria plays a leadership role in the Algiers-based AFRIPOL, an AU mechanism that seeks to enhance African police cooperation and prevent transnational crime and terrorism. Algeria also continues to host the AU’s Center for Study and Research on Terrorism.
Algerian law enforcement agencies participated in training and exchanges offered by the U.S. government and by third countries. Algerian participants attended numerous workshops conducted under the GCTF, the United Nations, and other multilateral organizations. Algeria also participated in a national-level workshop hosted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC’s) Terrorism Prevention Branch on implementation of UNSCR 2396 on detecting and preventing terrorist travel.
The nation also continued diplomatic engagement to promote regional peace and security. Algeria remains chair of the implementation committee for the peace accord in Mali and continued to support the UN political process in Libya. Algeria also participated in various Sahel-Saharan fora to discuss development and security policies and the evolution of regional terrorism threats. Regional tensions between Morocco and Algeria continued to impede bilateral and regional counterterrorism cooperation.