Massacre of the civilian population
In August 1997, the newly released FIS leader, Abasi
Madani, declared that his movement was willing to put an end
to the violence through dialogue with the government. But
the same month's massacre of 300 people in a small village
south of Algiers once again ruined the possibility of
dialogue. According to
those responsible for the massacre were believed to be
Islamist partisans, but at the same time eyewitnesses could
tell that army troops could have prevented the massacre but
chose not to intervene.
At the municipal and provincial elections in October, the
government's candidates won. It reaffirmed the government's
supremacy, but at the same time offered little opportunity
In March 98, one of the leaders of an Algerian militant
Islamic group was arrested in Belgium, and the Belgian
authorities declared it the first step on the road to
unraveling the GIA's European network.
Amnesty International criticized the government security
forces and the opposition's armed groups for their
responsibility for the murder and disappearance of hundreds
of people. The organization also criticized the torture and
mistreatment of detainees as well as the violation of the
maximum period of detention.
A few months later, the president resigned and
re-elected. In April 1999, Abdelaziz Bouteflika took over
the presidential post. He immediately printed a referendum
on a reconciliation law. The law gained overwhelming support
with 98.6% of the vote and was also supported by FIS. The
president also introduced a general amnesty for all those
who put down the weapons and engaged in legal political
In November 1999, the third most important leader,
Abdelkader Hachani, was murdered in the capital Algiers. The
murder is believed to have been committed by radical Islamic
forces who wanted to attack Hachani's dialogue with the
The behavior of the military in the armed conflict was
sharply condemned nationally and internationally, following
the publication of Major Habib Souaidia's book, The Dirty
War. The Major had resigned and lived in exile in France. In
his book, he revealed that during the 1990s, the military
repeatedly disguised itself as partisan and carried out
massacres on the civilian population. Moreover, it had
tortured Islamists to death. The Bouteflika government
rejected demands from human rights activists to conduct a
public and in-depth investigation into the violations.
In February 2001, Bouteflika was heavily criticized for
failing to curb the GIA massacres. The month before, he had
declared he would strike with iron hand against the
partisans who remained active, and February became one of
the bloodiest months on the part of the GIA.
In April, Berber leaders conducted a series of very
comprehensive demonstrations to support the demand for
cultural and social recognition. That led to clashes with
security forces and more than 60 killed civilians, prompting
the predominantly Berber-based RdC to withdraw from the
The role of the Berbers in the independence struggle from
France has traditionally been underestimated by the Arab
majority, and in August Berbers therefore conducted an
official ceremony in the Soummam Valley in the heart of
Kabylia to mark an anniversary in the independence struggle.
The roads were barricaded, preventing government delegations
In November, hundreds of people died as a result of the
worst floods in the country's history.
In March 2002, Boutlefika announced that the Berber
language - tamazight - would be recognized as a national
Up until the May parliamentary elections, the Berbers -
who make up 17% of the population - called for a boycott in
protest of the failure to recognize their cultural identity,
for better living and employment opportunities.
Up to the 40th anniversary of the country's independence,
an attack was carried out at a market near the capital.
Thirty people were killed. The authorities placed the
responsibility on Islamic extremists.
In May 2003, the country was hit by an earthquake that
cost 1100 lives and wounded 7,000.
In July, the Boutlefika government conducted an amnesty
in which two of FIS's top executives, Abassi Madani and Ali
Belhadj, were released after 12 years in prison. In May,
Ahmed Ouyahia of the National Democratic Movement was
appointed prime minister.
In September, government forces conducted an offensive
against the GIA in the Babor mountains of Setif province. In
November, the army of Saoula captured the organization's
leader, Rachid Abou Tourab.