Why Algeria Doesn't Talk to Terrorists

Why Algeria Doesn't Talk to Terrorists

It was 2007 when Algeria's Islamist insurgents changed the rules of a war that had raged, in various forms, for decades. That was the year Algeria witnessed its first suicide bombing -- the handiwork of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which had formed the previous year. Over the course of 2007 and 2008, AQIM carried out three sensational suicide bombings, resulting in more than 500 deaths and ushering in a new era of terrorism.

At the time, a Dutch oil company asked how the introduction of suicide bombing changed the security dynamic in Algeria. The town of Hassi Messaoud and other oil- and gas-producing areas are militarized zones: The previous logic had been that any attack against an oil facility would be a suicide operation. The attackers may have been able to reach their target, but they would never have been able to escape -- Algeria would launch helicopter gunships and destroy any would-be terrorists fleeing across the desert. But what were the consequences when death was, if not the goal of the mission, then at least an acceptable outcome?

Five years later, we have an answer.

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