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Algerian Civil War

1. Background
2. Active groups
3. History

Algerian Civil War: Suicide attack in Algiers in 1997.
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Suicide attack in Algiers in 1997.

Funaral of a victim of the fightings.
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Funaral of a victim of the fightings.

Active groups
Islamist groups
Islamic Armed Movement

Movement for an Islamic State

Islamic League for Da'wa and Jihad

Extreme Islamist groups
Takfir wa-l-Hijra
Groups supporting the government
Organization of Young Free Algerians

Civil war of Algeria 1992-1999. After 1999, clashes would continue, but on a smaller scale.
The war was between Islamist groups and the established secular parties, headed by FLN, in which the latter would come out as victors, even if many structures were changed during the war.
The number of killed in the war is highly uncertain, between 70,000 and 200,000. There is politics in both putting it low, as well as high. The official numbers of 150,000 and 200,000 are highly questionable. Even in 2002, about 1,000 people were killed in clashes.

The background of the war is complex, but the main reason was the stagnation of Algerian economy, decades of little political freedom, a military of extreme influence, poor educational system and years of Islamist missionary activities in the country.
In short, the war came from disagreement over whether democracy should be introduced and from the Islamist having armed themselves to the point where guerilla war could be fought.
The dramatic fall in oil prices in 1986 destroyed Algeria's ability to continue the existing political line. High unemployment, together with empty shelves in the shops proved that the the economic model had been a failure.
Algeria's industrialization had been aimed at the needs of the state, assuming that industries would create industries producing for the average citizen. This didn't materialize. Algeria's agriculture had also been neglected, to the point where 70% of all food had to be imported. Algeria's foreign debt had reached a critical level, and its payments had since long become the largest post of the national budget. Algeria, a country which had been set off with the highest goals, was in the end of the 1980's near bankrupt.
Since long, but especially through the 1980's, international Islamist mission had taken much of the country's social life. Being a country of many young with little money and poor prospects, innumerable mosques of all sizes offered both community and ideologies simple to understand. Many of the mosques had been built or established in existing buildings without the permission of the authorities; also their teaching was beyond the control of central authorities.
All around a message against the government, against Western values, was spoken out. The promise of God's gifts upon the faithful seemed to be the only option for a society where the common idea was that Algeria both had tried Western capitalism (under French control, and with unequal rights between "Europeans" and the Muslims) as well as socialism, without creating a good society.

Active groups
On the Islamist side, FIS was the leading political party. Had not the 1992 parliamentary elections been called off, they would most likely have been in position to form a new government. Their armed wing, AIS was one of several acting in the war.
But it would be the extreme group, GIA, that soon would take the lead in the fightings, operating in towns and cities. GIA, being a group with an ideology with takfiri elements, killed anyone as long as they could be deemed opponents, and didn't even spare children or old people. From GIA, the much less influential group, GSPC, would emerge.
Among the other groups were small pockets from the international Takfir wa-l-Hijra. Until 1994, the MIA and MEI usually attacked security services and sabotaged or bombed state institutions. Towards the end of the war, LIDD emerged, but was not able to carry through more than a limited number of attacks.
The guerilla groups were mainly operating in, and from, the mountains in the north.
On the government side, there also emerged a few groups. The Organization of Young Free Algerians (OJAL) was small but performed several attacks on civilian Islamist supporters.
The very sparsely populated, but oil-rich Sahara would remain mostly peaceful for almost the entire duration of the conflict. This meant that the government's principal source of money—oil exporting—was largely unaffected.

Leading up to the war
1984: A new family law reduces the rights of women to fit the demands of conservative groups.
1986: Oil prices fall from $30 to $10 a barrel.
1988 October: Heavy demonstrations in Algeria.
1989: A new multi-party constitution is introduced. Freedom of expression, association and assembly are secured. All parties, even religious, are permitted as long as they manage to bring together 15 signatures. Most parties would never be heard from again, but one, FIS, emerged with charismatic leaders and a good administrative body.
1990 June: FIS wins the provincial and municipal elections, 55% of the votes, and takes control 853 municipalities. FLN is defeated with a large margin.
1991 May: FIS calls for a general strike. Though the strike was a failure, FIS managed to arrange large demonstrations.
June: Belhadj and Madani are arrested, together with 2,500 of their supporters. FIS, however, remained legal, and the effective leadership was passed to Abdelkader Hachani.
December 26: FIS wins 188 of the 232 seats decided in the parliamentary elections, compared to FLN winning only 15, beaten even by the FFS (Front de Forces Socialistes) with 25 seats.

The Civil War
1992 January 11: The army cancels the ongoing parliamentary elections, forcing President Chadly Benjedid to resign. A new leadership was formed with the HCE, Mohammed Boudiaf becomes its first leader. Boudiaf was a man untainted by Algerian politics since 1962, a time he had spent in exile.
Mid-January: Small, poorly organized groups of Islamists attack on security forces.
— Between 5,000 and 30,000 FIS members are arrested, many sent off to camps in the Sahara.
January: MIA, the Islamic Armed Movement is founded by Abdelkader Chebouti. It stands in opposition to FIS.
February 9: HCE declares a 12 month state of emergency.
February: Former FIS member, Said Mekhloufi, founds the Movement for an Islamic State (MEI).
March 4: FIS is officially dissolved by the Algerian authorities. Still, some FIS members were still free, and started to regroup.
June 29: Boudiaf is assassinated. A five member presidency is established, headed by Ali Kafi.
August 26: Islamist bombing at Algiers Airport, killing 9, injuring 128; this marks the first attack on civilians in the war. FIS is accused for the bombing, but denies this.
September: Different armed Islamist groups agree to rally behind Chebouti and MIA.
1993 January: GIA is effectively formed, in opposition to AIS. GIA would act mainly around Algiers.
— MIA and MEI intensified their actions against security services and state institutions.
1994 January 31: Liamine Zeroual is named new president of Algeria.
— The Algerian government manages to halt many of its debt payments, allowing it more economic freedom on the home ground, leading to better conditions in many sectors in society.
February: With the initiative of new president, Liamine Zeroual, close negotiations between the government and FIS begin. This leads to GIA declaring war on FIS and AIS, while other groups, like the MIA joins AIS.
March: Zeroual's talks with FIS ends unsuccessfully. Yet, secret talks would continue.
March 10: Over 1,000 prisoners escapes a prison, most of them being Islamists.
May: Several central figures of FIS joins GIA.
June: The government bans Algerian media from reporting any terrorism-related news not covered in official press releases.
August 26: GIA declares a caliphate, with its leader as Caliph. GIA leaders would leave the group in protest beginning the following day. GIA begins attacking Islamist-led schools that they consider not conservative enough.
1995 January 14 The Sant' Egido Pact is presented, a joint declaration of representatives from both Islamist and secular parties, with FLN and FIS in front. Human rights are agreed upon, multi-party democracy, the promotion of Islam as well as Arab and Berber identities, and the end of the ongoing killings and torture.
: The government forces get the upper hand in the fights, and the FIS loses much of its popular support.
November 16: Multi-party elections are held that show Liamine as the winner, with around 60% of the ballots. The elections are strongly criticised by several political groups in Algeria, with accusations about falsification of the results, but foreign observers declare the elections to be free and fair.
— The number of Islamist guerilla fighting in Algeria, is estimated to 27,000.
1996 April: 7 Christian monks are killed, destroying much of the image of FIS among Algerians, although FIS declares that they had nothing to do with this.
August: Actions are intensified, with increasing number of attacks on civilians.
November 28: A new constitution outlaws political parties based on religion. Official numbers tell that 86% votes in favour.
December 17: Algeria's national assembly carries a decision to have the country arabized by 1998.
1997 January: GIA declares war on AIS.
— The first half of this year witnesses a number of very violent actions, leaving hundreds of civilians killed, resulting mainly from the Islamist group GIA. This appears to have been especially connected to the upcoming parliamentary elections.
June 5: Parliamentary elections, with 10 parties receiving seats. The new leading party, of President Liamine Zeroual, RND, wins 156 of 380 seats, while the legal Islamist party, MSP, gets 69 seats. A number of aspects of the elections are criticized by Algerian and foreign observers but, in general, it is believed that they are free and fair.
July 22: The leader of GIA, Antar Zouabri, is killed by government soldiers in a village west of Algiers.
August 28: In the largest massacre to date in the civil strife, 256 are killed in one village. GIA is accused for the killings.
September 22: Around 200 people are killed and many wounded in attacks in Barak county. GIA is accused for the killings.
October 1: AIS calls for full end to fighting, in order to demonstrate the extremism of GIA actions.
October 23: RND wins the local elections with more than 50% of the votes. The former government party, FLN, gets 20%. There are many reports about election fraud.
1998 January 1: 412 people are killed in Reliziane province, in the worst massacre to date in the civil war.
December 15: Smail Hamdani is appointed the new prime minister, following Ahmad Ouyahia.
: Formation of the GSPC, a break-away group of GIA, mainly in opposition to the indiscriminate violence of GIA.
1999 April 15: Abdelaziz Bouteflika is elected the new president.
June 12: FIS and AIS approves a peace accord with the Algerian government. Full focus would be given on destroying GIA.
July 3: Bouteflika declares amnesty for thousands of prisoners.
September 16: According to official numbers, 98.6% voted in favour of Bouteflika's peace initiative, giving amnesty for Islamist fighters.

After the war
2000 January: FIS disbands its armed faction, and has a majority of its militants surrender in a government amnesty program.
2002 GIA is largely defeated, although the organization continues, but only as very small group.
July 5: Bomb on a march in a village near Blida, leaving 32 dead and 80 wounded.
— About 1,000 people, including guerillas, soldiers and civilians, are killed in clashes throughout the year, and an even larger number are injured.
2005 September In a referendum, 97% votes in favour of a new peace initiative, giving amnesty to all fighters no longer active, and providing compensation to families of those killed by government forces.

By Tore Kjeilen