THE WISDOM FUND: News & Views
The Independent
February 28, 2003

Algeria Accused of Killing Thousands in Secret War

by Katherine Butler

. . . Algeria has been ravaged by violence since 1992, when generals cancelled elections that radical Islamist groups were poised to win. The people, in a backlash against corruption and repression, had voted overwhelmingly for the radical Islamic Salvation Front, a wing of which then took up arms.

At least 100,000 people are believed to have died in the decade since, a period punctuated by unspeakable atrocities and insecurity. Massacres of civilians are routine although less frequent in recent months and generally blamed on the shadowy GIA (Armed Islamic Group). But powerful factions within the secretive ruling military elite have been accused of orchestrating kidnappings, assassinations and even massacres to manipulate the GIA and reinforce the army's own grip on power. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, installed by the military in 1999, has offered Islamist groups amnesty but the GIA has rejected the offer. . . .

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["The cancellation of the second round of legislative elections in January 1992 was a dilemma for the US. The move was clearly non-democratic, but the likely winner of the election, the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), was outspokenly anti-American as a result of the Gulf war of 1991."--William B. Quandt, "Forty Years of Independence, Violence and Impoverishment," Le Monde, July 8, 2002] back button