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The extremists reportedly targeted the school to attract media attention. It worked. Related Gully Coverage

A Mother Takes on the Ayatollah
Effects of Muslim fundamentalism on one Iranian.


Africa

A Bloody Ramadan in Algeria

by Kelly Cogswell

DECEMBER 27, 2000. The Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which just ended, was marred in Algeria by the deaths of over 200 people in the intensified fighting between Muslim extremists demanding an Islamic fundamentalist state, and Algeria's secretive military regime.

These deaths have passed largely unnoticed. International ignorance about the ongoing civil war has been actively engineered by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika who, for a year and a half, has combined calculated political whitewashing with effective censorship of news of violence against—or by—the state.

Bloody Sunday 2000
boarding schoolNewspapers were temporarily given free rein after a massacre Saturday, December 17th. Late that night, Muslim extremists, believed to belong to the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), slaughtered 15 students at a boarding school in Al-Medya, a town just south of the capital, Algiers. The students, between 15 and 17 years old, were studying or sleeping. The extremists reportedly targeted the school to attract media attention. It worked.

On Sunday morning, shortly after the students were machine-gunned, another group of extremists opened fire on a civilian bus killing 15 and wounding others. The bus had stopped at a fake roadblock set up by the extremists near the city of Tenes. An hour after this attack, five civilians were murdered in the city of Khamis Melyana.

Earlier in the week 12 Algerian soldiers had been killed in an ambush at Ksar El-Boukhari, possibly in retaliation for a government security force air-to-ground missiles strike killing 18 armed Islamic extremists. That strike was in retaliation for the deadly ambush of nine government soldiers in the same region.

Muslim Violence
Though violence in Algeria intensifies during Ramadan when most Muslims renew their faith through fasting and prayer (the twisted minority proving their faith through violence and murder), between 200 and 300 people have been killed in Algeria every month throughout this year. About 100,000 people have been killed by Muslim extremists since 1992, when Algerian authorities called off the general elections the fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front were poised to win.

Women are at risk for particular terrors in Algeria's uncivil war. During some of the largest massacres they have been raped and mutilated by extremists before being slaughtered. The government is less than supportive, having joined a coalition with the Vatican, Iran, Nicaragua, Syria, Libya, Morocco and Pakistan to destroy women's reproductive rights gains outlined in the Beijing Platform for Action.

Queers are also targeted by both sides. In January 1997 a gay Algerian AIDS and human rights activist identified only as L. Favsal won political asylum in France because in Algeria, where homosexuality is an illegal, jailable offense, he was frequently beaten and arrested by Algerian police and was chased and threatened with death by Muslim civilians.

Aiming for Peace
Algerian Pres. Bouteflika, French PM JospinIn an ostensible attempt to end the eight-year civil war, Algeria's President Bouteflika offered a limited six-month amnesty to armed groups in July 1999. About 1,500 militants turned themselves in, but violence hasn't diminished. Radical groups GIA and Adaawa Wal Djihad (Appeal and Struggle) have vowed to fight until they get a fundamentalist Islamic state.

Despite the amnesty, there is also justifiable doubt about the government's commitment to peace. Killings, massacres, disappearances and abductions are as likely to be engaged in by the security forces as by the Muslim extremists.

There is also some evidence that fundamentalist violence is convenient for the Algerian government, which has been known to blame extremists for assassinations, disappearances, and even deaths resulting from their own bloody internal feuds.

Yous Nesrouallah, one of the few survivors of the 1997 massacre in Bentalha in which 400 people had their throats cut in one night, later reported that army helicopters were circling the scene, while soldiers prevented neighbors from coming to the aid of the victims.

Colonial Legacy
Dissident, exiled Algerian intelligence officers, calling themselves the Movement of Free Algerian Officers, blame the colonial legacy of the French for the typical government security service methods of assassinations, corruption, torture, and invisible political manipulation.

Ironically, just a few days before the start of Ramadan, on November 23, the French newspaper Le Monde featured interviews with retired French generals Jacques Massu and Paul Aussaresses. The generals provided graphic details about the French Army's systematic use of torture and executions during the 1954-1962 Algerian war of independence.

The most frequent method of torture was called "la gegene," in which electrodes were placed on victims' ears and penises and plugged into an electrical outlet. The second favorite method was "la baignoire"—the bathtub—in which prisoners were held down in tubs of filthy water or urine until they almost drowned. That one was learned from the Gestapo during the Nazi occupation of France.

Related links:

For the 1999 Amnesty International Report on Algeria.

For the Economist article Thinking the Unthinkable: Will the truth behind the appalling brutality of Algeria's long civil war ever be known?

For the CIA Fact Book, Algeria.

For the dissident Algerian Movement of Free Algerian Officers.

For Complete Coverage Africa

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