Wary of disorder in Libya and Mali, Algerian army targets southern smuggling

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By Lamine Chikhi

ALGIERS, May- Fearing armed chaos neighbouring Libya and renewed conflict in Mali, Algeria’s army is shifting focus from fighting Islamist militants at home to the Sahel smuggling that feeds them in the .

Since last month, the Algerian military it has arrested more than 650 suspected smugglers on its borders Libya, Mali and Niger in a campaign to tighten the largely desolate and trackless desert frontiers with the Sahel to its south.

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“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 .S. ally in the fight against Sahel armed factions.