Algerian authorities have busted a cell loyal to the Islamic State, led by former Al Qaeda commander, Mohamed Yacine Aknouche, who was once based in France operating with Algeria’s Islamic Armed Group (GIA)
Aknouche, 43, was convicted in France in 2004 for planning an attempted bombing in Strasbourg and was sentenced in absentia to eight years in prison, a security source told Reuters.
The same source, which requested anonymity, said that Algerian forces captured Aknouche this week near Tipaza, a coastal city 50 km west of the capital Algiers where officials charge he had been planning to carry out attacks on security forces. It was not clear when he had returned to Algeria.
For its part, the Algerian newspaper Ennahar quoted a security source saying that the cell was based in the village of Ain Taggourait and had plotted attacks in Algiers.
Terrorist attacks have dropped in Algeria since the end of the decade-long civil war in the 1990s but relics of terrorist groups remain.
After the 1990s war, Algeria fought several armed groups in a bloody conflict that ended when many militants accepted a truce and reconciliation deal.
There were around 35,000 active militants at the height of the conflict, but security sources say there are now between 800 to 1,000, mostly in remote mountain and border areas.
A hardcore of militants that stayed in the mountains after rejecting the peace accord belong to both Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the local branch of Islamic State known as Jund Al Khilafa. They have mostly targeted security forces in remote areas with ambushes.
In 2014, Algerian special forces killed the leader of the Islamic State local branch. Security sources named him as Abdelmalek Gouri and said he was behind the kidnapping and beheading of French tourist Herve Gourdel in September 2014. Like Aknouche, Gouri was a veteran of the 1990s war.