By Lamine Chikhi
ALGIERS, May- Fearing armed chaos in neighbouring Libya and renewed conflict in Mali, Algeria’s army is shifting focus from fighting Islamist militants at home to the Sahel border smuggling that feeds them in the region.
Since last month, the Algerian military says it has arrested more than 650 suspected smugglers on its borders with Libya, Mali and Niger in a campaign to tighten the largely desolate and trackless desert frontiers with the Sahel to its south.
“Algeria’s army is aware that fighting terrorism in the Sahel is useless if you do not include fighting smugglers,” security analyst and writer Anis Rahmani said.
Algeria, a major OPEC oil and gas exporter, managed to neutralise an Islamist insurgency only at the cost of thousands of lives in the 1990s and became a seasoned U.S. ally in the fight against Sahel armed factions.