Algerian forces are reported to have cleared Islamic State, (Daesh) affiliated fighters from the mountains to the east of Algiers where a French climber was kidnapped and beheaded two years ago.
Militants said to belong to the Jund al-Khilafa, or “Soldiers of the Caliphate” have been active within the mountains near Algiers since the ending of mass hostilities between the military and armed Islamists during the country’s bloody 1990’s civil war.
Military operations in the area intensified following the kidnapping and gruesome execution of French national, Herve Gourdel in September 2014. Speaking to Reuters, an anonymous Algerian military source told the news agency, “The group has been dismantled, most of its commanders were killed or arrested. It is over.”
A second security source told Reuters the Jund al-Khilafa has been militarily defeated over the past few months in several regions to the east of the capital.
Algerian forces killed 157 armed Islamists in 2015, and 99 were killed and 50 arrested in the first half of 2016, according to a defense ministry release, which did not specify which groups those militants belonged to.
Instability in Algeria has long threatened to spillover into neighboring Tunisia. In 2006, a small group of five Tunisians and one Mauritanian, known as the Soldiers of Asad Bin al-Furhat, (or the Soliman Group) crossed into Tunisia from Algeria with the intention of overthrowing the Ben Ali regime and establishing an Islamic Caliphate within Tunisia. Trained by the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (which later became Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) the group recruited more members before being killed or captured by the Tunisian military at the town of Soliman that year.
More recently, hostilities in and around the Chaambi region of southern Tunisia were widely understood to have been trained, equipped and directed by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, (AQIM) commanders operating out of Algeria. However, how much that remains the case now is unclear.