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. 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.
- COUNTRYAAH: Find major trading partners of Algeria, including major exports and major imports with latest trade value and market share as well as growth rate.
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 for change.
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 activity.
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 government.
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 government.
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 from participating.
- According to AllCityPopulation, the capital city of Algeria is Algae with a population of 3,335,000 (estimate 2012). Other major cities include Constantine with a population of 465,000, Oran with a population of 641,000 (estimate 2012).
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 language.
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.