In a statement posted August 21 on an Islamic website, the Groupe Salafiste pour la Prédication et le Combat (GSPD – Salafist Group for Call and Combat) has issued threats of a major bombing attack against police stations and security installations in the country. Much like the Mujahideen in the Arabian peninsula, a new sensitivity is being demonstrated to the public relations damage caused by non-combatant casualties. Warning Algerians to stay away from government buildings in major cities, the statement added: “We are innocent before Allah of the blood shed of those innocents who walk near these places.”
While the likelihood is strong that the motivation for the posting was to counter government statements on the imminent demise of the GSPD — given the arrest of its leader Nabil Sahrawi, which the Groupe admitted to in mid July — the reports of four dozen GSPD operatives heading for the capital Algiers has focused the interest of the security authorities enough to issue a major alert. However, the GSPD are yet to launch a major attack since the removal of Sahrawi (the Groupe has not yet admitted to his death), indicating the lack of a successor, or the absence of a clear chain of command. The GSPD is still capable, however, of deadly assassinations. In June a group of 14 soldiers were killed in an ambush in the Bejaia region, 260 km east of Algiers. Just in August, according to official and press sources, there have been 36 deaths due to the conflict and over 350 since the start of the year. The choice of an internet announcement may itself be telling, since a dramatic bombing has been the customary form of response to such claims.