ALGIERS (Reuters) - Algerian authorities temporarily evacuated nearly 100 Turkish construction workers from a roadway project east of Algiers as a precaution after a threat from militants affiliated with Islamic State, security sources said on Monday.
The measure underscores growing concern over militant attacks in North Africa following last week’s Bardo museum massacre of foreign tourists in Tunisia and Islamic State’s growing presence in neighboring Libya.
The Turkish workers were evacuated for 24 hours as a “preventative” measure but returned to the Kabilye region east of the capital on Monday. A French tourist was kidnapped and beheaded in the area by Islamic State loyalists last year.
“Things are under control, evacuation was just a preventive action, and they have resumed work this afternoon,” a security source who asked not to be named told Reuters.
Algeria, which saw a decade of Islamist insurrection in the 1990s in which 200,000 people were killed, is a top U.S. ally in the fight against Islamist militancy in the Sahel region. But Islamist fighters still strike, mostly at armed forces.
The Algerian leader of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is still in hiding in the eastern mountains. But a splinter group, the Caliphate Soldiers, declaring affiliation with Islamic State has also emerged. Last year, they kidnapped Frenchman Herve Gourdel and executed him.
Algerian special forces killed the Caliphate Soldiers leader and several other members. But it is still active.
“We know the Bardo attack in Tunisia may inspire terrorists in Algeria, so we need to be vigilant and protect foreigners who seem to be Islamic State’s favorite target,” a second security source said.
The Islamic State threat against foreign workers occurred in the “Triangle of Death” that includes Tizi Ouzou, Bouira, and Boumerdes, an area where militants were strong during the 1990s war and where kidnappings for ransom also happen.
Security experts believe the Bardo attack and Islamic State attacks in Libya may inspire increased IS or al-Qaeda recruitment and operations in North Africa. Tunisian and Libyan jihadis have streamed to Iraq and Syria to fight and some are now returning to their homelands.
Editing by Patrick Markey; editing by Ralph Boulton