|Algeria dismantles Mali terror cell|
|[MAGHAREBIA] Algerian security services on Saturday (March 9th) broke up an al-Qaeda terror cell in the town of Bordj Badji Mokthar along the Mali border, Echorouk reported.|
Seven people, including two Malians, were for facilitating the infiltration of a number of who fled the war in northern Mali. An eighth suspect reportedly managed to flee to Mali.
The Algerian security authorities and army forces stepped up their movements along the southern border in the last few weeks to prevent fleeing the battles in northern Mali from infiltrating into Algeria. These security measures have helped the authorities arrest a number of as they tried to cross into Algerian soil.
The latest security operation was carried out by an Algerian army unit in the wilaya of Tamanrasset. The newspaper said that authorities "monitored communications that the group had with terrorist organizations".
It added that the suspects belong to al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and used Bordj Badji Mokhtar, located along north-eastern Mali frontier near the Ifoghas Mountains, as their headquarters. The mountainous area had become a last refuge for al-Qaeda-linked fleeing a French and African military intervention in Mali.
The task of the group was to provide information and take pictures of movements of the Algerian army that has intensified its presence in border areas with Mali since the start of war on Islamist groups last January.
The cell members were reportedly preparing to facilitate the "infiltration of a number of who fled the hell of battles in northern Mali to Algerian soil". It said that a large number of the in northern Mali hail from southern Algeria, especially Adrar, Tamanrasset, Illizi and El-Meneaa in Ghardaia province.
At the terrorist cell's headquarters, the Algerian security forces seized Thuraya satellite phones, communication devices, advanced night-vision goggles, and two all-terrain vehicles, which had been under surveillance for a while by the security forces. The vehicles were reportedly used by the suspects in their movements between Bordj Badji Mokhtar and Tamanrasset.
Leaders of AQIM and Movement for Tawhid and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) work through middlemen in southern areas in recruiting support elements, taking advantage of sympathy with the jihadist groups. Others work with the "Movement of the Sons of the Sahara for Islamic Justice" that was led by Mohamed el-Amine Bencheneb, who was killed by the Algerian army forces during the attack on the gas plant in In Amenas.
These groups seek to re-form the cells in the south after the security authorities dismantled many of these networks following the terrorist attacks on national gendarmerie headquarters in Ouargla and Tamanrasset last year.
|Many Hostages Killed 'with Bullet to Head'|
|[An Nahar] Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal said five foreigners were still missing and that several of the hostages had been executed "with a bullet to the head" as the four-day crisis ended in a bloodbath on Saturday.|
The premier gave the final grim figures after Algeria had warned other nations to prepare for a higher body count, amid fears as many as 50 captives may have died in the world's deadliest hostage crisis in almost a decade.
He said the group's leader was Mohamed el-Amine Bencheneb, an Algerian militant known to the country's security services, and was killed during the army's assault.
Of the Yellowknife Benchenebs...
A total of 29 hostage-takers were killed and three captured. As well as the three Algerians among them, the kidnappers comprised six foreign nationalities, namely Canadian, Egyptian, Tunisian, Malian, Nigerien and Mauritanian.
Survivors' photos seen by Agence France Presse showed bodies riddled with bullets, some with their heads half blown away by the impact of the gunfire.
"They were brutally executed," said an Algerian who identified himself as Brahim, after escaping the ordeal, referring to Japanese victims gunned down by the hostage-takers.
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said seven Japanese people were known to have been killed in the hostage crisis, the first confirmation from Tokyo that any of its nationals had died. Witnesses had said nine Japanese people connected to plant builder JGC were killed in the 72-hour ordeal.
One Japanese survivor was quoted in the Daily Yomiuri newspaper as telling colleagues how the gunmen had dragged him from his barricaded room, handcuffed him and executed two hostages standing nearby.
The Philippine government said six Filipino hostages were among the dead, killed "mostly by gunshot wounds and the effects of the explosions."
As more harrowing accounts emerged of the siege, a Filipino survivor described how the militants used foreign hostages as human shields to stop Algerian troops aboard helicopters from strafing them with gunfire.
Joseph Balmaceda told reporters in Manila he was the only survivor out of nine hostages in a van that blew up on Thursday, apparently from C-4 explosives the militants had rigged to the vehicle.
"I was the only one who survived because I was sandwiched between two spare tires. That is why I am still here and can talk to you," said the visibly distressed father of four.