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Algiers says it has recovered a “slice of the ransom” from hostages in the Sahel

The Algerian army has got hold of a “Slice of the ransom” which, according to her, would have been paid for the release of hostages in the Sahel in October, as part of an anti-terrorist operation carried out in Jijel (northeast), the defense ministry announced on Monday (December 28th).

“During a search and search operation”, the army “Discovered and destroyed five pillboxes for terrorists and recovered the sum of 80,000 euros”, is it indicated in a press release of the defense. The sum “Turned out to be the first installment of the ransom, object of the bargain concluded in the Sahel last October, and supposed to be paid for the benefit of the residue of terrorist groups tracked down by the security services” Algerians in the north of the country, it is specified without further details.

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This operation was carried out thanks to the information obtained after the capture, on December 16, in the same locality in Jijel, of the “Terrorist Rezkane Ahcene”, according to the press release. It is in the same region that three armed Islamists, veterans of the jihad in Algeria, as well as an army staff sergeant were killed in a serious clash in early December.

Redeployment plan

According to the official press, the army thus thwarted a plan to redeploy the organization Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) after the death of its leader, the Algerian Abdelmalek Droukdel, killed in June by the soldiers of the force French army “Barkhane” in northern Mali.

Negotiated by the Malian authorities with a jihadist group fought for years by France, the release in October of 200 prisoners against four hostages, including a Frenchwoman, fueled tensions between Paris and Algiers.

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In particular fearing the return of jihadists to their soil, the Algerian authorities strongly criticized the negotiations and castigated “Questionable practices”.

A jihadist released in Mali in exchange for hostages and arrested at the end of October in Algeria had mentioned the payment of a ransom of ” millions of euros “, in a video broadcast on Algerian public television, without it being possible to corroborate his statements or to know under what conditions the images had been recorded.

At the beginning of December, in an implicit reference to France, the Algerian Prime Minister, Abdelaziz Djerad, had indicated that Algeria was taking “Act, with great concern, of the continuation of the transfers, to the profit of terrorist groups, of colossal funds as ransoms for the release of hostages”. This “Approach undermines our counterterrorism efforts”, he added, according to statements relayed by the official press agency APS.

“Terrorism residues”

The Algerian authorities report “Terrorist residue” since the end of the bloody civil war (1992-2002) which had opposed Islamist groups to the security forces, at the cost of 200,000 deaths.

The National People’s Army (ANP) regularly reports the arrest or neutralization of “Terrorists”, a term used by the authorities to refer to armed Islamists who have remained active in the country since the early 1990s.

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For its part, France has always denied having been involved in the negotiations for the release of the four hostages and having paid a ransom for the release of Frenchwoman Sophie Pétronin. “We were not part of these negotiations”, declared on October 12 the Prime Minister Jean Castex, evoking a “Humanitarian gesture” jihadists about Mme Pétronin. Ransom payments in connection with the release of Western hostages in the Sahel are considered common, without the details or the veracity of these being in the majority of cases officially confirmed.

France has deployed an anti-jihadist force of more than 5,000 men in the Sahel, particularly in Mali. Three French soldiers were killed on Monday, victims of a homemade bomb, in the area of “Three borders”, in central Mali, according to the French presidency.