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Algerians Concerned for Their Safety

by Julie Ray

Only 30% feel safe walking alone at night


PRINCETON, NJ -- New waves of violence this year are harsh reminders for many Algerians -- as well as their neighbors and allies -- that the country's bloody past is not yet behind them.

The Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), an Islamist militant group, renamed itself al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in January and stepped up its attacks. The group has claimed responsibility for multiple deadly bomb attacks near or in Algiers in February and late April. GSPC emerged during the civil strife in the 1990s between Muslim militants and government security forces that claimed more than 150,000 lives, many of them civilian. In those years, according to The Economist, "people stayed at home after dark."

Many Algerians may feel the climate of fear has returned. A Gallup World Poll conducted in February found only 30% of Algerians say they feel safe walking alone at night in their communities. This percentage is among the lowest in the world, significantly lower than that expressed in neighboring countries such as Mali (80%), Mauritania (85%), and Morocco (74%). Among all African populations surveyed, only Chadians (24%) are less likely to say they feel safe.

Some reports indicate that Algeria's crime rate is increasing, with carjackings, abductions, thefts, and muggings growing more common. About one in four Algerians (24%) say they or their families have had money or property stolen in the past year, a relatively high figure for North Africa though fairly typical of sub-Saharan Africa. Relatively few Algerians (15%) say they have been assaulted or mugged, again high for a North African country but about on par with countries further south in the continent. However, even in African countries where residents are more likely than Algerians to say they've been victims of assault or theft, the percentages who express fear for their personal safety at night are far lower.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with 1,070 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted in February 2007. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.


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