Country Profile: Algeria

Algeria is host to numerous American oil companies operating in its remote southern desert regions. But according to the U.S. State Department and other observers, much of Algeria can be a dangerous place for Americans and other outsiders.

For about a decade, Algeria's secular government has been fighting Islamic groups in what it describes as a war on terrorism that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.

In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika — who has traveled to the Bush White House seeking greater American investment — repeated his persistent calls for international action against terrorism.

Anger at America

But others are upset with America over its harboring of Anwar Haddam, a former leader of the disbanded Islamic Salvation Front. Haddam was sentenced to death by an Algerian court for his alleged role in a deadly 1995 car bombing near a police station in Algiers.

Located on the Mediterranean coast between Morocco and Tunisia, and also bordering Libya, Algeria geographically is the second-largest country in Africa — more than three times the size of Texas.

Until its independence in 1962, Algeria endured more than a century of sometimes repressive rule by France. Violence flared again in the early 1990s after ballot success by the Islamic Salvation Front led to postponement of elections and a government crackdown on the nation's more radical Islamic groups.

Travel Warning

On May 31, 2001, the State Department of State issued a warning to Americans considering travel to the North African republic, noting, "all travel by official Americans [diplomats] in [the capital city of] Algiers is by armored car with appropriate security."

"Although considerably fewer terrorist incidents have taken place in Algeria over the last three years, unpredictable attacks still occur in rural villages, on roadsides and public transport, and at night," the warning read. "The most recent terrorist activity has occurred in rural areas in northern Algeria."

In the months preceding the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, there was a renewed wave of deadly attacks near Algiers, news agencies reported.