CAIRO Ñ Algeria has widened its war against the leading Islamic
insurgency group in the North African country.
On Sept. 21, Algerian Mi-24 attack helicopters fired anti-tank
missiles toward a suspected smuggler convoy near the Algerian-Mali border.
The convoy was said to have contained Salafist and smugglers. There were no
reports of casualties.
The sources said this was the first attack on smugglers who operate in
the southern Sahara. They said the Salafists have cooperated with the
smugglers in obtaining weapons, financing and in insurgency operations.
The sources said 40 Salafist agents were involved in the six-month
hostage ordeal. The Salafists were said to have escaped to Mali and
collected a ransom of more than 5 million euros, Middle East Newsline reported.
The smugglers were said to have helped bring 31 Western European
hostages from Algeria to Mali in August. The Salafist group, headed by
Hassan Khatab, kidnapped 32 Austrian, Dutch, German, Swedish and Swiss
hostages in February and one of them died in captivity.
Algerian security sources said the military has launched operations
against smugglers who operate in the southern Sahara Desert. The sources
said the operations were part of the campaign against the Salafist Brigade
for Combat and Call.