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Algeria 2017 Crime & Safety Report

Near East > Algeria; Near East > Algeria > Algiers

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Algiers does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED ALGIERS AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Please review OSAC’s Algeria-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.

Crime Threats

While the government does not publish statistically valid crime reports, media reporting and anecdotal observation indicate that the frequency and intensity of criminal activity remains moderate. A significant percentage of crimes go unreported.

The most common crimes tend to be crimes of opportunity (pickpocketing, robberies, purse-snatching, burglaries, similar crimes) perpetrated by criminals who primarily operate in high-traffic and high-density areas. Criminals tend to focus on persons who appear unfamiliar with their surroundings, are dressed in obviously foreign clothing, or have otherwise drawn attention to themselves. While street crimes (pickpocketing, robbery, assault) are not uncommon, areas frequented by foreigners are generally less vulnerable since they enjoy more robust police presence. Algiers, like many of the larger coastal cities, is generally considered safe due to the volume of security forces deployed in the streets and at intersections. Crime has not affected expatriates to an unusual degree.

General theft and residential burglaries are common in low-income neighborhoods and do occasionally occur in more affluent neighborhoods. Residential break-ins often occur during the day when homes are unoccupied, although break-ins while the home is occupied do occur. Since most burglaries are crimes of opportunity, a well-secured home is often enough to deter criminals. Many middle-class Algerian families improve their residential security by installing grilles over windows and doors.

While it should be assumed criminals are prepared for confrontations, most generally avoid violence.

Cybersecurity Issues

Cybersecurity is a growing concern in Algeria. In 2016, press and government sources reported 500 attacks on websites and social networks in Algeria compared to 240 cases reported in 2015. Some of the cyberattacks were against government institutions including 12 million attempted attacks, an average of 32,000 attempts a day, against the Ministry of National Defense.

Other Areas of Concern

Reports of arms smuggled out of Libya began in 2011, and the number of weapons seized on Algeria’s eastern and southern borders continues to be high. The amount of weapons throughout the region increases the ability of terrorist and criminal organizations to threaten government security forces and commercial interests.

Regional political and security volatility brought about by the emergence of ISIS and affiliated groups, human/narcotics trafficking, the changing regional political climate (especially in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, the deteriorating situation in Libya, terrorist groups operating in Tunisia, and fragile peace accord implementation in Mali have resulted in increased security concerns especially along the vast border regions. Violent extremist groups and criminal networks in the Sahel operate around Algeria’s nearly 4,000 miles of borders. Due to concerns, including AQIM kidnappings, many governments around the world have identified the Sahel region as an area of concern.

When traveling outside of Algiers, make special security arrangements and ensure reliable and experienced transportation/logistical support. In general, mountainous regions located in less populated and less traveled areas (where security services do not have a significant presence) should be avoided. It is a good security practice for all travelers to check in with the local authorities.

The Algerian government does not permit the Embassy staff to travel outside of the Algiers province without prior coordination with the Algerian government. For this reason, along with local security concerns, the provision of consular services in certain areas of Algeria may be limited. Travelers are advised to remain on principal highways when traveling to coastal/mountainous areas east of Algiers and the mountains immediately south of Algiers.

The Algerian government requires all foreign employees of foreign companies/organizations based in Algeria to contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before traveling in the interior. The Ministry will notify local police of planned travel, and the police may assign escorts. Foreigners traveling to the military zone established around the Hassi Messaoud oil center require an additional “desert pass” authorization from the government of Algeria.

Extremists have conducted attacks (often using bombs, ambushes, false roadblocks) in the mountainous Kabylie region (Boumerdes, Tizi Ouzou, Bouira, Bejaia provinces) and the southern and eastern border regions (the Chaambi mountains area, south of Souk Ahras, near the Tunisian border).

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Road infrastructure remains insufficient for the growing number of vehicles on the roads. Traffic management resources are inadequate, and the ability to expand or create new roads to alleviate congestion in large cities is limited. The government continues to expand the number of paved roads between major urban areas.

Local media reported 3,718 deaths and 41,544 injuries in road accidents in the last 11 months 2016. This was a decrease of more than 12% compared to the same period in 2015, according to the National Association for Road Safety. Many factors play a role in traffic fatalities: poorly maintained roads, a severe lack of roadway signage, insufficient vehicle maintenance, the use of defective/pirated auto parts, driver fatigue, and reckless/unskilled drivers. Most roads also have inadequate pedestrian routes with limited or no sidewalks.

The government implemented stricter conditions for licensing vehicles and introduced new measures between 2012 and 2016, withdrawing older vehicles from circulation, reducing the on-road hours for public service vehicle drivers, and barring heavy transport vehicles in Algiers during daylight hours. In addition, the National Association for Road Safety adopted a policy of intensifying awareness campaigns throughout the country and in school curriculum, stressing the dangers of driving and not respecting traffic rules. These measures have improved road safety slightly since implementation, but a lack of enforcement continues to be a major contributor to overall road safety. For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”

Military and police checkpoints are common on major roads in large cities and throughout the countryside. Security personnel expect full cooperation and routinely stop vehicles for security reasons and to check vehicle/driver paperwork. During times of heightened security, the number of vehicle checkpoints and police is increased.

Public Transportation Conditions

There are numerous taxi services in major cities, to include several, new radio-dispatch taxis in Algiers. However, in general they have shown questionable reliability and inconsistent service. It is generally a good security practice to avoid hailing taxis on the street.

An urban metro rail line in Algiers is generally well-maintained, although it has limited usefulness; it only runs through the coastal neighborhoods.

Due to the poor road infrastructure and poor driver training, serious traffic accidents involving buses and other vehicles of mass transportation occur regularly.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

Houari Boumediene Airport, which provides international and national flights, is located in the southeast of Algiers. The airport adheres to international air safety standards, as does management of flight operations. While security measures are not on par with U.S. airports, security personnel are present. The government has taken steps to improve airport security. Since late 2014, there has been a noticeable increase in police checkpoints leading to the airport, and vehicle access to the terminals has been restricted.

Terrorism Threat

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED ALGIERS AS BEING A HIGH-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns 

Terrorist groups remain active in the trans-Sahara region. AQIM, the Mali-based Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), and al-Murabitun (led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, whose status remains unknown, but rumors about his health and whereabouts continue to circulate) are active terrorist threats. These groups aspire to establish Islamic law in the region and to attack Algerian security services, local government targets, and Western interests. Most attacks are directed toward Algerian military/police.

AQIM’s Emir Abdelmalik Droukdel, an Algerian national, remained at-large at the end of 2016. AQIM attacks have used improvised explosive devices (IEDs), bombings, false roadblocks, kidnappings, and ambushes.

The Algerian military reportedly killed or captured dozens of fighters loyal to ISIS in the Tizi Ouzou and Bouira regions.

  • ISIS claimed responsibility for the assassination of a policeman in a restaurant in Constantine in October 2016. Algerian security forces were pursuing the perpetrators when a suicide bomber attacked another Constantine police station in February 2017. That suspect was shot by police prior to detonating the explosives. Algerian security forces conducted prolonged sweeping operations in the nearby regions that resulted in the reported death of that group’s leader and another member. It has not been confirmed how many additional members of the group may still be at large.
  • Jund al-Khilafa (JAK-A, Soldiers of the Caliphate in Algeria), which has sworn allegiance to ISIS, claimed responsibility for a few, sporadic attacks, although efforts by the government appear to have significantly limited the group’s ability to operate in 2016.
  • Three other Algerian groups have issued statements claiming allegiance to ISIS, but there is little indication that these groups contain more than a small number of fighters.
    • In May 2015, Katibat Ansar El Khilafa (Caliphate Supporters) in Skikda announced its support of ISIS through an audio clip posted on Twitter.
    • Also in May 2015, Katibat Sahara announced its allegiance to ISIS through an online statement. This group is believed to be a split from al-Murabitun.
    • Seriat El Ghoraba, based in the Wilaya of Constantine, announced in July 2015 via Twitter its spilt from AQIM to join ISIS.

 
The government continues an aggressive campaign to eliminate all terrorist activity and has a large, robust security apparatus to thwart terrorism threats. In 2016, military and security services conducted regular operations nationwide including in the Kabylie area and in the expansive desert regions in the southeast. The press reported more than 36 terrorist acts between January-November 2016. Public information announcements from the Defense Ministry provided reporting on incidents during which Algerian forces killed 125 terrorists, captured 225 others, and seized equipment, arms, ammunition caches, and drugs as a result of operations in 2016.

Anti-American/Anti-Western Sentiment

In September 2014, an ISIS-affiliated group abducted and beheaded a French citizen in the Kabylie region.

  • In January 2013, an al-Qa’ida-linked organization attacked a gas production facility near In Amenas, Algeria, near the Libyan border, holding foreign and Algerian workers hostage, with dozens killed, including three U.S. citizens.   


Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED ALGIERS AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Civil Unrest

Sporadic social unrest continues in Algeria. In 2016, more than 1,987 protests were recorded nationwide. Issues usually revolve around specific social issues, perceived economic injustices, and shale gas/fracking projects planned in the south. Most of the unrest was seen in populations unhappy with the criteria for or pace at which the government has disbursed promised social benefits, particularly housing.

  • Since January 2016, as the government has conducted many rehousing operations, many protests have taken place nationwide by the citizens excluded from these operations.
  • In December, many protests took place in several regions against the Algerian 2017 Finance Law, which included tax and price increases.


Local authorities are quick to bring civil unrest under control using conciliatory tactics. The government is experienced in dealing with such events and has generally been able to diffuse them. However, some protests have turned violent and resulted in injuries among protestors and security forces.

Religious/Ethnic Violence

Conflict between Mozabite Ibadi Muslims and Arab Malikite Muslims, which represents the majority of Algerians, flared in 2015, with street clashes between the two communities resulting in substantial material and human casualties. Although clashes stopped in 2016, law enforcement still intercepts people suspected of involvement in past violence.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Algeria, and particularly Algiers, rests in an earthquake zone, with around 1,500 earthquakes annually of which only about 50 are of magnitudes between 2.5 and 5.0.

Critical Infrastructure

Industrial accidents are not regularly reported in the media, and local authorities’ resources and ability to deal with industrial accidents appear to be limited.

In the oil sector, the government depends on resources imported by foreign oil companies and private organizations.

Drug-related Crimes

In 2016, more than 31,000 people, including 170 foreign nationals, were arrested for drug trafficking, which is a 20% rise from the same period in 2015. Of the cases investigated, 5,752 cases were related to trafficking, and 19,423 cases were related to individual use.

The National Office on Drugs and Drug Addiction (ONLDT) reported more than 93 tons of cannabis was seized in the first 10 months of 2016. Of that, 47% of the cannabis seized was in the west. The amount seized was a 90% decline compared to the same period in 2015. This data is based on reported figures and does not necessarily reflect a reduction in drug-related activity (i.e. it may indicate less interdiction).  

Kidnapping Threat

To increase its financial resources, AQIM has kidnapped Westerners in the Sahel to obtain ransoms. Kidnappings and the threat of kidnappings have prompted foreign governments and international organizations to warn their citizens, employees, and constituents against living, traveling, or working in the region. Kidnapping by terrorist organizations or armed criminal groups is a threat in both the Kabylie and the trans-Sahara region.

  • In September 2014, the ISIS-affiliated JAK-A abducted and beheaded a French citizen in the Kabylie region, marking the first time an ISIS-linked group outside of Syria had abducted a Westerner.


The abduction of children has been on the rise in Algeria. The Algerian Association for Defense of the Rights of Children (NADA) recorded eight victims and 220 attempts of kidnapping nationwide in the first six months of 2016. Algerian law enforcement has implemented a security plan to cope with this phenomenon by deploying plain-clothes policemen at schools and in the neighborhoods where disappearances are more common, and a toll-free number (104) has been implemented.

Police Response

Police are generally professional and responsive to calls for assistance.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

Police can be slow when it comes to notifying embassies or consulates following the arrest of a foreign national. Americans may request permission to communicate with the Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy in Algiers but should not expect Algerian police to proactively contact the Embassy.

Crime Victim Assistance

 

 

Land Line

Cellular

Police

1548 and 17

021-73-53-50

Gendarmerie

1055

 

Fire

14

021-71-14-14

Ambulance

 

021-23-63-81

Reliability and response time of emergency services varies but is not to U.S. standards. Emergency operators may speak French and normally do not speak English.

Police/Security Agencies

The Directorate General for National Security (DGSN) is the civil police and is largely responsible for larger cities and urban areas. The DGSN falls under the Ministry of Interior and is responsible for maintaining law and order, conducting criminal investigations, and other routine police functions, including traffic control.

The Gendarmerie Nationale falls under the Ministry of National Defense and is responsible for maintaining law and order in rural areas. They play an active role in internal security efforts in combating terrorism and organized crime.

Medical Emergencies

In Algiers, the police will likely be the first agency informed in the event of an emergency. The police will advise the local hospital to send an ambulance.

Medical expertise and resources vary. The best hospitals are the military ones, but these are not open to the general public. If a visitor does not have contacts or established medical resources, s/he will likely be taken to the closest medical facility.

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

A list of hospitals and doctors can be found on the Embassy website.

Available Air Ambulance Services

The Department of State maintains a list of air ambulances for medical evacuation.

For those in the south of Algeria (Sahara desert), the RedMed group (Tel: +213 (0) 21 376583, +213 (0) 297 39 400, and +213 (0) 770 27 80 10 / 20 / 30) offers air ambulance services based in Hassi Messaoud.

Insurance Guidance

It is advisable to take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel. Consider purchasing medical evacuation insurance.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Algeria.

OSAC Country Council Information

The Algiers Country Council currently meets twice a year and has approximately 20 members. Please contact OSAC’s Middle East and North Africa team with any questions or to join.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

U.S. Embassy Algiers
5 Chemin Cheikh Bachir El-Ibrahimi
El Biar district of Algiers

The U.S. Embassy in Algiers operates Sun-Thurs, 0800-1700, with services for American citizens by appointment. A duty officer is available for after-hours emergencies.

Embassy Contact Numbers

Phone number (including after hours): +213 (0)770-08-2000
Regional Security Office: +213-(0)770-08-2168
Website: http://algiers.usembassy.gov/

Embassy Guidance

U.S. citizens are encouraged to enroll in the Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive the latest travel security information for Algeria. By registering, U.S. citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.

You may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, outside the United States and Canada, on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.

Additional Resources

For further information on general crime and security issues, U.S. citizens should also consult the Department of State’s Travel Warning for Algeria, Country Specific Information on Algeria as well as the Worldwide Caution.