- The government of Algeria has announced the capture of the leader of the Islamic Armed Group (GIA), which happened two months ago, and the subsequent dismantling of several "terrorist" cells of the GIA. The Islamist group has spread terror in Algeria for more than ten years.
Nourredine Boudiafi, known as the national emir of the GIA, had been arrested in the outskirts of Algiers in a police action in the beginning of November, according to a press statement released by the Ministry of the Interior today. No details were given to where Mr Boudiafi has been held detained since that.
The arrest of the GIA leader has been kept secret for almost two months. Meanwhile, the Algerian army has carried out an operation aiming at dismantling remaining cells of the "terrorist group". According to the Interior Ministry, "almost all the GIA network" is now "broken up," following the successful army operation that had gone over "several months."
Also the death of Rachid Abou Tourab, the former GIA leader, was confirmed by the Ministry. Mr Abou Tourab, according to the statement, had been killed by his own close aides in July 2004. No further details were given on the Islamist leader's death.
The government statement was read on national radio and television. Officials from the Algerian police and the Interior Ministry however have not wanted to comment on the statement or to give further details. Algerian police and military forces are still targeted by several armed Islamist groups such as the GIA and authorities are known to give out very closely filtered information regarding its efforts to fight these groups.
The GIA began its terror operations in Algeria shortly after the Islamist party Front Islamique du Salut (FIS) was robbed of its 1992 election victory. The FIS and its military arm, the AIS, led the first armed campaigns against the coupist Algerian government, while the GIA was created as an independent and more radical group during the chaos of the mid-1990s.
In 1999, the AIS signed a peace accord with the Algerian government and in a subsequent amnesty, most fighters hand in their arms. The amnesty also caused hundreds of GIA fighters to give up their arms, thus hurting the extremist group. Several GIA networks and cells, often composed of former Arab fighters in Afghanistan, however heave remained active until today.
The GIA was the most feared Islamist terrorist group in the mid-1990s, when it attacked schools, army posts, the police and civilians believed to be pro-government. The group declared a holy war on infidels and all foreigners, causing an exodus from Algeria. It achieved international fame by hijacking an Air France passenger aircraft at Algiers airport in December 1994.
Even before the alleged killing of Mr Abou Tourab and arrest of Mr Boudiafi, the GIA had lost its operational strength in Algeria. The Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) - a group breaking away from the GIA some years ago - has meanwhile become the most active terrorist group in Algeria and the region. The GSPC is said to maintain contact with al Qaeda.
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