Algeria. US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld visited
Algeria on February 12 in connection with a tour of the
region and discussed, among other things. joint efforts
against terrorism and military cooperation.
Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Algeria on March
10 and during the visit it was announced that Russia had
written off $ 4.7 billion in debt. Most of the debts arose
during the 1960s and 1970s to the then Soviet Union. In
return, Algeria would buy weapons for a similar sum.
Agreements on oil and gas exploration were also signed.
On March 4, a first group of imprisoned militant
Islamists was released in accordance with the amnesty
adopted in 2005. During the six-month long amnesty,
approximately 2,100 Islamists were released. Some 100 people
convicted of serious crimes such as blast attacks, murder or
rape received penalties. A week before the amnesty expired
on August 28, a government official stated that up to 300
CountryAAH, Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia resigned May 24 after three
years in office. Ouyahia from the ruling party National
Democratic Assembly (RND) was replaced by Abdelaziz
Belkhadem from the other government party, the National
Liberation Front (FNL). Belkhadem kept the government
largely unchanged, but announced that he intended to raise
the minimum salaries of state employees and review the
constitution. The president would have greater powers of
authority and be allowed to sit for three terms and the term
would be extended from the current five to seven years. If
the changes go through, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who
was elected in April 2004 for a five-year term, could stand
for another term.
Bouteflika became the first president of Algeria since
independence in July 1962 to conduct a state visit to the
United Kingdom. The visit was preceded by criticism of the
British government handing over two suspected terrorists to
Algeria, and the human rights organization Amnesty
International published a report accusing the Algerian
security service DRS of torturing and abusing prisoners.
Despite the government's amnesty and attempts at
reconciliation, continued violence was reported during the
year. In April, 13 customs officials were killed at a border
post in southern Algeria. In June, the army killed at least
19 people in connection with an offensive against suspected
Islamists near Annaba, 60 miles east of the capital, Alger.
At the end of October, three people were killed and 24
injured when two car bombs exploded outside two police
stations near Algiers. In November, eight soldiers were
killed in an ambush southwest of Algiers. The armed Islamist
group GSPC (Groupe Salafiste pour la Prédication et le
Combat) was suspected of several of the deaths. In a
statement on the fifth anniversary of the September 11
attacks in the United States, the GSPC stated that it had
joined the terror network al-Qaeda.
In September, one of the Islamist movement returned FIS
chief leader from exile. Rabah Kebir had lived in Germany
since 1992. On his return, he urged his followers to lay
down their weapons. In October, Kebir said that the FIS did
not intend to introduce a theocratic government and declared
its readiness to support the proposal to allow President
Bouteflika to run for another term.
Rising revenue from natural gas exports helped Algeria in
May offer to repay $ 8 billion of its loan to the so-called
Paris Club, an association of 19 countries that have claims
on other countries. In July, Algeria also announced plans to
levy higher taxes on foreign oil companies. Italy and
Germany announced in November that they had signed
agreements on natural gas supplies from the state-owned
Algerian company Sonatrach.
In February, western Algeria was hit by severe flooding.
Particularly vulnerable were four camps for refugees from
Western Sahara. Both the UN and the EU granted emergency
At least four people were killed and 36 injured on March
20 when an earthquake measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale hit
the province of Bejaï in northeastern Algeria.