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Algeria 2019 Crime & Safety Report

Near East > Algeria; Near East > Algeria > Algiers

The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses Algeria at Level 2, indicating travelers should exercise increased caution due to terrorism. Do not travel to areas near the eastern and southern borders, or areas in the Sahara Desert due to terrorism.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

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

Review OSAC’s Algeria-specific webpage for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.

Crime Threats

There is moderate risk from crime in Algiers. While the government does not publish crime statistics, media and anecdotal reporting indicate that the frequency and intensity of criminal activity remains moderate. A significant percentage of crimes likely goes unreported.

The most common crimes tend to be crimes of opportunity (e.g. pickpocketing, purse snatching, burglaries, and similar crimes) perpetrated by criminals who operate primarily in high-traffic and high-density areas. Criminals tend to focus on those who appear unfamiliar with their surroundings or have otherwise drawn attention to themselves. Areas foreigners frequent are generally less vulnerable, since they enjoy more robust police presence, though crime still does occur. Algiers, like many of the larger coastal cities, is considered safer due to the significant deployment of security forces. In addition to police personnel, the wilaya (province) of Algiers employs an extensive camera network for monitoring general safety and fighting crime. Algeria uses video surveillance in seven major cities and expects to expand the program.

General theft and residential burglaries are more common in low-income neighborhoods, but do occasionally occur in more affluent areas. Because burglaries are often 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. Assume that criminals prepare for confrontation, though most avoid violence. Of note, in 2018 there were only ten reported murders in Algiers, a city of over 3.5 million residents.

Cybersecurity Issues

As in most parts of the world, cybersecurity incidents continue to be a concern in Algeria. A national police statement identified 1,140 cybercrime cases in 2018, compared to 1,500 reported cases in 2017. The decrease in cases may be related to an increase in efforts to counter known abusers and a campaign by authorities to warn citizens. Businesses (especially banks) and social networks appear to be the top targets for fraud, blackmail, and radicalization.

Other Areas of Concern

Violent extremist groups and criminal networks operate around Algeria’s nearly 4,000 miles of land borders. Terrorist activity in Libya, Tunisia, and Mali, as well as human and narcotics trafficking continue to cause concern. Weapons seizures are most common in the southern border regions, while the Algerian government has identified the western border region as increasingly burdened by drug smuggling. Due to security incidents, including al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) kidnappings, many governments around the world identify the Sahel as an area of concern.

When traveling outside of Algiers, make security arrangements and ensure reliable and experienced transportation or logistical support. In general, avoid mountainous regions in less populated and less traveled areas where security services do not have a significant presence. It is a good security practice for all travelers to check in with the local authorities. The Algerian government often requires foreign employees of foreign companies and organizations based in Algeria to contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before traveling to the interior. The Ministry will notify local police of planned travel, and may assign police escorts to the travelers. Foreigners traveling to the military zone established around the Hassi Messaoud oil center require an additional “desert pass” authorization from the Government of Algeria.

The Algerian government does not permit diplomats, including U.S. Embassy staff, to travel outside the wilaya of Algiers 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. Remain on principal highways when traveling to coastal or mountainous areas outside of Algiers.

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 somewhat 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.

The National Center for Prevention and Road Accidents (CNPSR) reported 22,991 road accidents nationwide in 2018 including 3,310 deaths and 32,570 injuries. This marked a decrease from 2017 when more than 3,600 people reportedly died and 36,000 were injured in road accidents. Most traffic fatalities occurred on highways, where the main factors are reckless or unskilled drivers, lack of respect for traffic laws, lack of enforcement, and lack of sufficient lighting.

Police and military checkpoints are common on major roads in large cities and throughout the countryside. Law enforcement personnel routinely stop and inspect vehicles for security purposes and traffic law compliance. During times of heightened security, the number of vehicle checkpoints and police often increases. For more information on self-driving, review OSAC’s Report, Driving Overseas: Best Practices.

Public Transportation Conditions

There are numerous taxi services in major cities, to include several radio-dispatch taxis and new digital app services in Algiers. Traditional taxi services are of questionable reliability and exhibit inconsistent service. Avoid hailing taxis on the street, as accountability of the driver is difficult and picking up multiple passengers is common. A well-maintained urban metro rail line in Algiers has limited usefulness, as it only passes through coastal neighborhoods.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

Houari Boumediene Airport (ALG), which provides international and national flights, is located in Dar el Beïda, east of Algiers. The airport adheres to international air safety standards and management of flight operations. While security procedures and resources are not on par with U.S. airports, security personnel are present and active. The government has taken steps to improve airport security in recent years, to include building a more modern international terminal set to open in 2019.

Terrorism Threat

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

There is moderate risk from terrorism in Algiers. Terrorist groups remain active in the Sahara region. AQIM, AQIM-allied groups, and ISIS elements, including the Algerian affiliate locally known as Jund al-Khilafah in Algeria (JAK-A, Soldiers of the Caliphate in Algeria), are present. These groups aspire to attack Algerian security services, local government targets, and Western interests. Almost all reported terrorist attacks in 2018 targeted Algerian security forces and involved improvised explosive devices (IEDs) or ambush tactics as suspects actively fled through rural mountainous regions.

The majority of these attacks occurred in the east extending to the borders with Tunisia. This includes two February 2018 IED attacks targeting military detachments near Khenchela and Tebessa, which led to the death of seven soldiers. It also includes the deadliest attack of 2018, a July ambush in Skikda that resulted in the deaths of seven soldiers and at least 14 additional injuries. The western part of the country also witnessed a resumption of terrorist activity, specifically in Sidi Bel Abbas, following the assassination of two imams inside a mosque in May. The ensuing police operation hunting the ISIS-affiliated group (previously split from AQIM) resulted in the death of a soldier and the injury of seven others in an IED blast. Of special note, the attacks conducted in 2018 were generally absent any official claims by terrorist groups, unlike in previous years when groups usually claimed credit for acts of terror immediately.

The government continues to eliminate terrorist activity with a large, capable security apparatus. Through numerous sweeping operations, the National Army reportedly killed 30 terrorists in 2018. The most significant operation occurred in Khenchela in January, when authorities killed eight terrorists, including prominent AQIM leaders from Tunisia attempting to unify factions still in Algeria. Similarly, the group suffered a significant loss in January with the elimination of their propaganda chief in Jijel province. In addition to those notable losses, reporting indicated police arrested 56 terrorists nationwide, and a record number (129) of militants laid down arms and surrendered, the majority of whom operated in the south of the country.

Despite positive indicators, reports warn against the immediate cross-border threats to Algeria, including the possible presence of 4,000 Libyan violent extremists near the border. The security situation in Tunisia also remains of concern, highlighted by an attack on a military patrol close to the Algerian border causing the death of six Tunisian soldiers in July and provoking an emergency Algerian military deployment. Overall, the combined Algerian security services apprehended more than 250 terrorist supporters in 2018, but the number of terrorists reportedly killed decreased in comparison to 2017, when authorities eliminated 90 terrorists.

Authorities continued to foil terror plots throughout 2018. The western wilaya of Tlemcen was at the center of multiple major anti-terror investigations. Authorities dismantled an ISIS-affiliated network planning to target oil facilities in the south in February, as well as a terror support network in May. Authorities in March thwarted a terror plan in Mascara by a dormant cell of 11 intended terrorists named “the Lone Wolves.” Most recently, authorities dismantled a dormant ISIS-affiliated cell in Tamanrasset through the arrests of two former Algerian soldiers dismissed from service in 2016; both former soldiers were reportedly in touch with active ISIS chiefs aboard, who instructed them via social media to collect detailed information regarding foreigners living in Algeria and monitor their activities.

Weapon seizures increased in 2018, with the army recovering almost 700 firearms and additional dangerous materiel, including explosives, grenades, and RPGs. The security forces destroyed more than 500 hideouts in various regions throughout the year—particularly in the border regions of the southern desert in Adrar and Tamanrasset. Authorities seized heavy artillery as recently as December in the deep desert, including air-to-surface missiles smuggled for local terror groups through regional weapon-smuggling networks. Increasing military action at the border reportedly cut the main trafficking routes, with the summer 2018 establishment of additional watchtowers, patrols, and trenches. This corresponds with the record number of terrorists surrendering, increased seizure of weapons, and high number of terrorist hideouts located and destroyed in 2018.

Anti-U.S./Anti-Western Sentiment

Although reporting continues to identify terrorists aspiring to attack Western targets in Algeria, there have not been any terror attacks against foreign nationals in Algeria since the 2014 abduction and beheading of a French citizen in a remote area of the Kabylie region by an ISIS-affiliated group. One year prior, an al-Qa’ida-linked organization attacked a gas production facility at In Amenas, near the Libyan border, holding foreign and Algerian workers hostage. Dozens died during that large attack, including three U.S. citizens.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

Civil Unrest

There is moderate risk from terrorism in Algiers. Algeria witnessed increased social unrest in 2018. The Algerian League for Human Rights noted 11,000 nationwide protests, a dramatic increase from some 2017 estimates. These protests were overwhelmingly non-violent and in response to specific social issues, such as housing, declining purchasing power, and working conditions. In southern regions, protests mostly related to unemployment and lack of basic services.

Local authorities are active in bringing civil unrest under control. The government is experienced in dealing with such events, and has generally been able to defuse them without force. However, a few protests turned violent and resulted in injuries among some protestors and security forces.

Religious/Ethnic Violence

Religious and ethnic violence in Algeria is exceedingly rare. An exception was the Ghardaia valley in southern Algeria, where conflict between the minority Mozabite Ibadi Muslims and the majority Arab Malikite Muslims flared in 2015; street clashes between the two communities resulted in substantial material damage and human casualties in the wilaya of Ghardaia. There were only minor issues in the region since 2017; however, law enforcement maintains a heavy presence in Ghardaia to monitor for instability.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Algeria, and particularly Algiers, is located in an earthquake zone. The country experienced 60 earthquakes in 2018 registering magnitudes of between 2.5 and 5.0 on the Richter scale.

Critical Infrastructure

The media does not reported industrial accidents regularly. The ability of local authorities to deal with industrial accidents appears limited. In the oil sector, the government depends heavily upon resources imported by foreign oil companies and private organizations.

Drug-related Crimes

In 2018, authorities arrested early 45,000 people, including foreign nationals, for drug-related offenses, a major jump from 2017. This likely reflects an increased emphasis on drug crimes by law enforcement officials. Algerian law enforcement continues to highlight in local media the battle against drug-related crime; several high-profile drug-related cases dominated headlines in 2018.  

Kidnapping Threat

AQIM has kidnapped foreign nationals in the Sahel to obtain ransom. Kidnappings and the threat of kidnappings have prompted foreign governments and international organizations to warn against living, traveling, or working in that region. Kidnapping by terrorist organizations or armed criminal groups against foreigners has not happened since 2014.

Police Response

Police are generally professional and responsive to calls for assistance. A new number for calling the police for service (#1548) is in operation and appears to be successful.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

 

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

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 up to U.S. standards. Emergency operators generally speak Arabic and French, but normally do not speak English.

For local first responders, refer to the Embassy’s Emergency Assistance page.

Police/Security Agencies

The Directorate General for National Security (DGSN) is the civilian police force largely responsible for cities and larger urban areas. The DGSN falls under the Ministry of Interior, and is responsible for police activities such as maintaining law and order, conducting criminal investigations, combating terrorism and organized crime, and routine police functions such as traffic control.

The National Gendarmerie force falls under the Ministry of National Defense and is responsible for maintaining law and order and providing police services in more rural areas. They play an important role in internal security efforts in combating terrorism and organized crime. Algerian Customs works closely with the police and gendarme at border points enforcing import laws and regulations.

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 military-run, but these are not often open to the public. If a visitor does not have contacts or established medical resources, an ambulance will likely take them to the closest medical facility.

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

For medical assistance, refer to the Embassy’s Medical Assistance page

Available Air Ambulance Services

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

Consider purchasing travel, health, and medical evacuation (medevac) insurance before travel.

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 meets biannually. Interested private-sector security managers should 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 Sunday-Thursday, 0800-1700, with services for U.S. 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: https://dz.usembassy.gov

Embassy Guidance

U.S. citizens should 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.

Additional Resources

Country Specific Information on Algeria