Algerian Government Investigates Movement of Jihadists Into Syria

Article Summary
Algeria is investigating whether Islamists in the country are helping to transport fighters into Syria via Libya, Lebanon and Turkey, writes Mohammed Ben Ahmad. Probes are underway in eight provinces amid growing fears of Islamist influence over the uprising against the government of Bashar al-Assad. 

On July 3, security forces in Illizi province arrested an individual suspected of working for a cell that transfers Algerian jihadists into Syria via Libya. Security forces are pursuing this suspected cell, which is accused of smuggling Algerian fighters into Syria in coordination with Syrian, Egyptian, Libyan, Turkish and Lebanese agents.

According to our sources, security forces managed to arrest an Algerian who tried to enter Libya through its desert border. Security forces have linked this case to the disappearance of at least seven other Algerians under circumstances that are probably related to the Syrian crisis. Investigations show that the missing Algerians have infiltrated Tunisia or Libya. In early July, investigators in Illizi heard the testimony of an Algerian who was arrested while sneaking into Libya from the desert. Large-scale investigations are under way to arrest members of the network that is smuggling Algerian fighters into Syria. The accused, who has been released and is awaiting an appearance in court, is an unemployed 27-year-old man who lived in Ghardaia and Algiers. He was arrested while trying to sneak into Libya. The man told investigators he had lost his passport; however, it is believed that the infiltrator handed over his passport to a group of activists who smuggle Algerian fighters into Syria. Investigators found evidence of several calls to Libyan numbers in the man’s cellphone. This case has all the hallmarks of jihadist organizations’ attempts to infiltrate Salafist fighters into the “Land of Jihad,” after confiscating the fighters’ passports.

Investigations are being conducted in eight provinces: Algiers, Tlemcen, El Ouadi, Illizi, Tebessa, Biskra, Ghardaia and Djelfa. Investigators believe Algerian jihadists snuck into Libya with the support of Moroccan and Tunisian activists, after being recruited through online forums administered by two Islamist movements. The first was the Salafist movement, which issued a fatwa emphasizing the necessity of the fight against the Baath regime in Syria. The second movement was a jihadist Salafist movement with close ties to al-Qaeda and al-Nusra Front in Syria. The suspected cell, which includes approximately 10 members, coordinates communication between Algerian jihadists and jihadists in Libya. The cell assists in smuggling jihadists into the Libyan desert, where they then meet with cells that help Algerian, Moroccan or Tunisian activists infiltrate into either Jordan, Lebanon or Turkey. The destination changes every three days to one week, based on the circumstances.

According to our sources, members of the network have been communicating online with Libyan jihadists for more than a year. They said that the network is not, however, related to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Its mission is limited to smuggling fighters from Algeria and Morocco into Libya and then Syria. Those fighters undergo short training sessions to learn safety precautions that will assist them in infiltrating into Syria. Some infiltrators receive up to $2,000 from unknown sources to cover transportation fees.

According to the information collected by security forces, at least 10 Algerians and 10 Moroccans were smuggled into Libya from Tunisia or through the Libyan-Algerian border to reach Syria. Although security forces were notified of the disappearance of seven Algerians in less than three months, thus far they have neither denied nor confirmed whether these missing Algerians are involved in jihadist and Salafist movements in Syria. There is a growing fear in the region as supporters of the Salafist movements in Egypt, Morocco and Algeria are increasingly calling upon Islamist figures to open “the door to Jihad” in Syria. High-level Algerian officials are concerned about the repercussions of Algerian fighters infiltrating Syria. Algeria is already facing the consequences of Algerian activists’ involvement in the Iraqi resistance, including immense pressure exerted on Algerian authorities by the families of Algerian convicts who are detained in Iraqi prisons on charges of affiliation with al-Qaeda. According to sources close to the Syrian government, there are several training camps in Syria for jihadists arriving from neighboring countries.

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Found in: syrian, syria, algeria, al-qaeda
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