Algeria launches probe into Pegasus spyware claim

Algeria's public prosecutor is launching an investigation into media reports that the country may have targeted by the controversial Pegasus spyware. — AFP

Algeria's public prosecutor has ordered an investigation into media reports that the North African country may have been the target of the Israeli-made Pegasus spyware, it said in a statement on Thursday.

News outlets including Le Monde and the Washington Post had reported on Sunday that the software, developed by Israeli firm NSO Group, had been used by governments to spy on activists, journalists, lawyers and politicians around the world.

The bombshell claims were based on a document leaked to Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based media nonprofit, and Amnesty International, containing 50,000 telephone numbers of people identified as potential targets via Pegasus between 2016 and June 2021.

Many numbers on the list were clustered in 10 countries including Morocco, Algeria's neighbour and political rival.

Thousands of Algerian telephone numbers – including some belonging to top political and military figures – were listed as potential targets of the spyware, according to TSA, a French-language Algerian news website.

Morocco and Algeria have repeatedly sparred over the disputed region of Western Sahara, which Morocco considers an integral part of its territory while Algeria backs the pro-independence Polisario movement.

Relations between the two neighbours soured again on Sunday after Algeria recalled its ambassador in Morocco for consultations after Morocco's envoy to the United Nations expressed support for self-determination for Algeria's restless Kabylie region.

Morocco said on Monday it "categorically rejects" claims its intelligence services used Pegasus to monitor critics at home and abroad.

It also filed a defamation claim against Amnesty International and the French NGO, due to allegations its intelligence services used Pegasus against dozens of French journalists, lawyers for the government said Thursday. – AFP

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