Bruce Riedel writes: While [Algeria’s President Abdelaziz] Bouteflika is the public face of the government, real power still resides with the generals. They avoid the public limelight and are known in Algiers as “le pouvoir,” the power behind the scenes. In the shadowy world of “le pouvoir,” the most powerful man is probably the head of the secret police or mukhabarat. The head of Algerian intelligence, the DRS, Mohammad Mediene, has a long track record of eradicating terrorist groups using extreme methods. KGB-trained and rarely photographed, the 73-year-old Mediene has run Algerian intelligence since 1990 and is known for his professionalism and determination. He is also known by his nickname, ‘the god of Algiers,’ because his power is so pervasive and unaccountable. Born in 1939, he served in the French colonial army before defecting to the nationalist revolt when it began in the 1950s. Mediene is now the longest serving head of intelligence in the world. And probably the most ruthless.
His deputy, Bashir Tartag, commanded the actual assault on the terrorists in the desert facility. His nickname is “le bombardier” and he is also known for his support for the so called eradicationist school of counter-terrorism. But the DRS is also known for its tactic of infiltrating terrorist groups, creating “false flag” terrorists and trying to control them. Rumors have associated the DRS in the past with the Malian warlord Iyad Ag Ghali, head of Ansar al Dine AQIM’s ally in Mali, and even with Mukhtar Belmukhtar, the al-Qaeda terrorist who engineered the attack on the natural gas plant. The Algerians hope is that they can influence these groups to stay away from Algerian targets. The tactic originates with KGB and was developed by the DRS in the 1990s. It had success in dividing the jihadists then. This year is failed disastrously in Mali when the terrorists took events into their hands. [Continue reading…]