Friday, 17 December 2010

The latest Kabylia anti-terrorism operation

Last week we reported on the launch on Thursday 9th December of a massive army operation against AQIM 'terrorists' covering much of the Tizi Ouzou and Boumerdès. As is so often the case with such operations, it becomes impossible to know where truth becomes disinformation and propaganda.

During the course of the last week, the scale of the operation has grown bigger and bigger according to media reports sourced to the security services. In the course of the week the number of soldiers involved has grown from 4,000 to 7,000 and then to 9,000.

Similarly the number of 'terrorists' allegedly surrounded has grown from some 50 to 500. This later figure may, of course, be true, but it is difficult to reconcile with the security forces' own information which tells the world that there are only some 600 AQIM ' terrorists' . In fact, one such report claims that there are only 400 in northern Algeria.

The ' truth' is that the army is undertaking one of its periodic sweep operations in the region but that the figures, both of the scale of the operation and the number of ' terrorists' about to be eliminated are almost certainly grossly exaggerated.

However, such exaggeration is important. It serves to justify to its Western allies and the more sceptical Algerian public all the money spent on the Algerian armed forces and their counter-terrorism campaigns. Such operations and their exaggeration are, ' internationally important' .

One of the barometers of the ' truth-exaggeration' problem – and this is not a comedy skit – relates to Ali Belhadj's DNA. As noted above Belhadj has a son who is a member of AQIM .

According to the media, the security forces say they have taken samples of Belhadj's DNA to help them identify corpses that are too mutilated to be identified by other means.

According to Ali Belhadj, to whom one of our sources spoke this week, this is totally untrue. Indeed, according to Belhadj, this is the fourth or fifth time that this DNA story has been put out into the media by the security services. In his opinion, it is becoming almost the clearest indicator of when the security forces want to exaggerate the scale or outcome of its operations.

For more news and expert analysis about Algeria, please see Algeria Focus and Algeria Politics & Security.

© 2010 Menas Associates

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