Algeria News & Current Events
Attempts at Reform
In April 2004 presidential elections, praised by international monitors for their fairness, incumbent Bouteflika won 85% of the vote. Bouteflika stated that his second term would be devoted to solving the three-year-old crisis in the Berber region of Kabylia, freeing women from restrictive family codes, and bringing about “true national reconciliation” caused by the civil war. The country's dire economic situation has improved slightly, but Algeria still faces a high unemployment rate.
In Oct. 2005, Algerians approved a controversial referendum sponsored by Bouteflika, the Charter on Peace and National Reconciliation, which grants amnesty to all Islamists and military officials involved in the country's bloody civil war. There is considerable doubt whether reconciliation is possible without holding anyone accountable, and the president's plan has been referred to as one of amnesia rather than amnesty.
Reconciliation Efforts Are Thwarted by Acts of Terror
In April 2007, about 35 people were killed and hundreds wounded when suicide bombers attacked a government building in Algiers and a police station on the outskirts of the capital. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for the attack. The terrorist group struck again in December, killing as many as 60 people in two suicide attacks near UN offices and government buildings in the capital of Algeria. The bombings occur within minutes of each other. It was the worst attack in Algeria in more than 10 years.
In June 2008, President Bouteflika replaced Prime Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem with Ahmed Ouyahia, who had served twice as premier.
At least 43 people were killed in August 2008, when a suicide bomber drove an explosives-laden car into a police academy in Issers, a town in northern Algeria. The next day, two car bombs exploded simultaneously at a military command and a hotel in Bouira, killing a dozen people. No group takes responsibility for the attacks, but Algerian officials said they suspected Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb was behind the bombings.
In November 2008, Parliament approved constitutional changes that allow President Bouteflika to run for a third term. The opposition criticized the move, calling it an assault on democracy. Bouteflika went on to win reelection in April 2009, taking more than 90% of the vote.
The opposition's hope for gaining influence and a voice in government were dashed in parliamentary elections in May 2012. A coalition of moderate Islamist parties were optimistic that they could ride the wave of change and reform that has swept the region since the Arab Spring of 2011. But the coalition won only 48 out of 463 seats, and accused the ruling National Liberation Front (FLN), which took 220 seats, of fraud.
Dozens of People Killed in Hostage Crisis
On Jan. 16, 2013, Islamic militants took dozens of foreign hostages at the BP-controlled In Amenas gas field in eastern Algeria, near the Libyan border. Algerian officials said the militants were members of an offshoot of al-Qaeda called Al Mulathameen and were acting in retaliation for France's intervention in nearby Mali to beat back militants who had crossed into government-controlled areas. On Jan. 17, Algerian troops stormed the complex and attacked the kidnappers. By the end of the standoff on Jan. 20, 29 militants and 37 hostages were killed. Three Americans were among the dead. The Algerian government was criticized for its heavy-handed approach to the crisis but remained unapologetic.
On Sept. 3, 2012, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika named Abdelmalek Sellal as prime minister. The government's main cabinet positions remained unchanged.
On March 13, 2014, Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal resigned in order to run the reelection campaign of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Energy Minister Youcef Yousfi was appointed prime minister. Bouteflika was reelected to a fourth term in April 2014, taking 81% of the vote. The opposition, led by Ali Benflis, who challenged Bouteflika and received 12% of the vote, claimed there were "serious irregularities" in the election.