George Joffé
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Algeria’s response to violent extremism
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Since the 1980s Algeria has had to respond to political extremism. Following the ‘Berber Spring’ in 1980, it had to react to the Bou Yali rebellion. Then, in October 1988, countrywide discontent and an organized Islamist movement challenged the government’s claim to embody the legitimacy of the Algerian revolution by leading the struggle for national independence. In 1991, the Algerian army, fearing that the Islamist movements might win elections, took control. Within a year it faced a complex insurrection in which some groups sought to restore the electoral process and others attempted to replace the state with a caliphate. Algeria’s strategy in this struggle has evolved from counterinsurgency during its 1990s civil war to suppression of ‘residual terrorism’ afterwards. Although this forced the groups concerned into the Sahara and the Sahel, it did not eliminate them, so Algeria has been forced to attempt to influence group behaviour in northern Mali, despite pressure from the US and France for direct engagement. One approach has been to organize a regional response, despite tensions between Algeria and Morocco over the Western Sahara. However, the Libyan crisis has pushed the country into reluctant engagement with Western paradigms of confronting non-state terrorism and violence.

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