Algeria entrusts retired general with eradicating AQIM’s last groups
ALGIERS - Algeria has named retired general Athman Tartag to head up the country's fight against armed extremists, the daily El Watan reported Monday.
Tartag, who is also known as General Bachir, is in his 60s and has previously run the country's internal security service, the DSI, on an interim basis after the death of its chief in 2007.
The paper said the general had been named to "eradicate the last groups of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb still surviving in the north of the country and to prevent any proliferation of terrorism on the borders with Libya, Niger and Mali."
Al Qaeda-linked groups have been active in Algeria, Mali, Niger and Mauritania for a decade but their activity has picked up since the fall of Muammar Gadhaffi scattered the slain Libyan strongman’s arsenal across the region.
AQIM and a splinter group that surfaced earlier this month — the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa — currently hold 12 European hostages.
In April 2010, the four countries formed a Committee of Joint Chiefs (CEMOC), based in the Algerian town of Tamanrasset, to coordinate their military efforts against AQIM.
CEMOC army chiefs meet every six months but had never yet organised joint patrols, with the smaller countries criticising the group’s powerhouse Algeria for failing to send more help.