MUSLIM HATE IN ALGERIA
Islamists Seize Foreign Hostages at Algeria Gas Field
By SCOTT SAYARE
Published: January 16, 2013
PARIS — Islamist militants took several hostages from a foreign-operated gas field in an attack in eastern Algeria early Wednesday morning, calling the abductions a retaliation for the French-led military intervention in neighboring Mali.
As many as eight people were kidnapped from the site in In Amenas, near the Libyan border, according to news reports, including Japanese, French and Irish nationals. Several others were wounded, and at least two deaths were reported. Algerian security forces were dispatched to the area, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
A Japanese official confirmed that Japanese nationals were involved, and the Irish Foreign Ministry said one Irish citizen had been kidnapped.
Fighters with links to Al Qaeda’s African affiliate, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, claimed responsibility for the attack, according to Agence France-Presse and ANI, a Mauritanian news agency that maintains frequent contact with militant groups operating in West Africa. The fighters had arrived from northern Mali, several hundred miles to the south, Agence France-Presse reported, citing a telephone conversation with a militant who claimed involvement in the attack.
Islamist groups have occupied the vast desert expanse of northern Mali since last year. In retaliation for the French-led effort to drive them out, those groups, including Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, have pledged to strike against France’s interests abroad, as well as those of nations backing the French operations. In France, security has been reinforced at airports, train stations and other public spaces.
The militant groups are financed in large part through ransoms paid for the freeing of Western hostages, and regular kidnappings have occurred in the West African desert in recent years. Seven French nationals are presently being held there.
The attack on Wednesday was carried out by a “heavily armed” group of “terrorists” traveling aboard three vehicles, the Interior Ministry statement said, and targeted a bus transporting foreign workers to a nearby airport at 5 a.m. An “indeterminate number” of hostages were taken, the ministry said, while one foreigner was killed and six people were wounded, including two security guards and two police officers.
A member of the Algerian Parliament said four Japanese and one French national were kidnapped, Agence France-Presse reported.
The gas field in In Amenas is a joint venture operated by the British multinational BP, the Norwegian group Statoil and the Algerian government-owned Sonatrach. The Japanese engineering firm JGC provides services there.
BP confirmed a “security incident” had occurred at the gas field and said in a statement that it was arranging an emergency “help line for relatives.” The British Foreign Office said in a statement that “we can confirm that British nationals are caught up in this incident.”
Algeria, which shares a desert border of several hundred miles with Mali, has resisted the possibility of organizing an armed intervention into the Malian north, fearing that fighting could spill into Algeria or drive militants into the country. Algeria has authorized French jets flying missions in Mali to cross Algerian airspace, however.
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb began as an insurgent group fighting the secular Algerian government in the 1990s.
Algeria's 'Black Decade' Still Weighs Heavily
by Eleanor Beardsley
April 25, 2011
(NPR) Islamist radicals killed more than a dozen Algerian soldiers last week in a rare flare-up of violence between Muslim extremists and the Algerian state.
During the 1990s the government fought a brutal civil war against an Islamist insurgency that it eventually won. But at an enormous cost: the death of some 200,000 civilians.
Algerians say it's the memory of those years of violence and upheaval that has kept people from demonstrating in the streets against their government; even if they face some of the same problems as other Arab nations.
"The Black Decade" stills haunt Algerians today.
The French submission to the Oscars in March was a film about seven Trappist monks killed by Islamist extremists at their monastery in the mountains of northern Algeria. The movie, Of Gods and Men, is based on a true story from 1996 as the Algerian state battled an Islamist insurgency.
The movie shows the monks living in friendship with the poor, local population, offering health services and joining in weddings and celebrations. As the country slips deeper into conflict, the monks don't know whether to stay and risk death, or leave and betray the local population that depends on them.
They choose to stay and are eventually kidnapped and beheaded.
Living In Fear
Although the murders of the monks shocked the West, Algerians were suffering similar tragedies every day, says Algerian journalist Rachid Khiari.
"People lived for eight years not knowing if they would even return home when they left the house in the morning," he says. "People saw babies massacred and whole village wiped out. Today there are cases of schizophrenia relating to those years. It was horrible, and after a while, no one knew who was killing who anymore."
The civil war began after an era of unprecedented openness in the late 1980s. Personal freedoms blossomed and dozens of new political parties were created. But when Islamist parties appeared ready to sweep to victory in the early 90s, the government canceled legislative elections.
The Islamists fought back, initially targeted the army and police — but then they began attacking civilians; artists, teachers, judges and journalists were slain. State security forces, trying to root out the insurgency, often killed indiscriminately. By the end of the 1990s, an estimated 200,000 Algerians had died.
Members of the Algerian Association of the Disappeared have been protesting once a week since 1998. They say they simply want information about the more than 8,000 Algerians who went missing during the Black Decade.
Nassera Dutour, who is president of the association, says she doesn't bother wearing makeup since her son Amin was kidnapped some 13 years ago. She calls her frequent laugh a nervous habit.
"The military and police would come together," she says, describing how people like her son disappeared in the 1990s. "They'd circle a village looking for so-called 'terrorists.' It was like the gestapo. They'd knock at the door, lock up the women and take the men. And if they couldn't find who they were looking for, they'd take other family members."
The government eventually put down the insurgency. In 2005, under Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Algerians approved a charter for national reconciliation.
It gave amnesty to Islamists who handed in their weapons, and families were monetarily compensated for members who had disappeared.
Dutour says she and the other mothers also want information about their children, but since the amnesty, the government considers the issue of the missing closed and refuses to meet with them.
Almost every Algerian was touched by the killings of the 1990s.
Dr. Amel Abbess is seeing patients at one of the main hospitals in the capital of Algiers. She says the violence of the 1990s still profoundly affects Algerians.
During the Black Decade, people just tried to stay alive and prayed that the killing would stop. That's why they don't take to the streets in protest now.
"People want to live peacefully and normally now," she says. "And we want to become more prosperous, too. I think once we've done that, we'll think more about democracy."
Abbess and other Algerians say they want change to come, but they want to take their time and make sure it comes peacefully.
As Algeria grows more Islamic, nightlife suffers
August 3, 2009
The Associated Press
ALFRED de MONTESQUIOU (Associated Press Writer)
ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — All through the 1990s, when Islamic militants waged a ferocious war on the Algerian state and nightlife died in the city that once called itself "The Paris of Africa," the Hanani bar and restaurant stayed open. It was "an act of resistance," says owner Achour Ait Oussaid.
Yet today, at a time when the bloodshed has ebbed, local authorities have shuttered the hole-in-the-wall bar. "This same state has done what the Islamists never managed to do," Ait Oussaid said, standing amid abandoned tables and empty shelves gathering dust.
At least 40 bars, restaurants and nightclubs have been closed in the past year around Algiers alone, according to local media. The government insists that the closures are strictly a matter of safety and hygiene, but suspicion is widespread that Muslim conservative pressure is to blame.
Ait Oussaid, a Muslim like almost all of Algeria's 32 million people, contends that officials caved in to a petition circulated in his seaside neighborhood of La Perouse demanding that the Muslim prohibition of alcohol be enforced.
Many see this as one of a series of measures the government is taking in Algiers and other cities to soothe Muslim sensitivities and isolate the militants who still carry out bombings and assassinations.
The North African country has a history of tolerance and secular-leaning government, but its nightlife has gone through several ups and downs.
When it was a French colony it boasted countless classy nightclubs and restaurants. The fun went on in the early years of independence in the 1960s, lost its flair when doctrinaire socialists ran the country, made an exuberant comeback, and then was devastated by the so-called "Black Decade" of Islamic violence and government countermeasures that left up to 200,000 dead.
The fighting erupted in 1992 when the army canceled elections that Islamic candidates were expected to win. In the ensuing years, bars, nightclubs and anything else the militants deemed Western could be targeted.
Ait Oussaid says he defied death threats to keep Hanani open. "For me, it was an act of resistance, a way to defend the Algerian state," he said.
Youcef Kerdache, a construction entrepreneur who still drops by Hanani for old times sake, calls the bar a victim of "the ostentatious Islamization of Algerian society."
Mohamed El Kebir, Algiers' regional governor, declined to comment for this report, but speaking to the French-language Liberte newspaper, he said safety regulations are the only consideration, not "religion or other pressures."
Still, other signs point to increasing enforcement of a stricter, more visible version of Islam. Several workers were prosecuted last fall for smoking in public during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Groups of Algerian Muslims have recently been put on trial for converting to Christianity.
Censorship of sexual content on national TV has become stricter, and although women aren't officially obligated to cover their heads, students at provincial universities complain of being pressured to wear head scarves.
While the affluent elite can unwind at Algiers' costly private clubs or international hotels, the closures appear to be hitting lower-income neighborhoods hardest.
In the Boumerdes province next to Algiers, Gov. Brahim Merad has pledged not to approve a single liquor license. "Even better; I won't miss a single opportunity to close the existing establishments," the French-language El Watan newspaper quoted him as saying in June.
Rundown Boumerdes remains one of Algeria's most violent areas, with several killings and roadside bombings a week on average, blamed on Al-Qaida-linked militants.
The program of "national reconciliation" put forward by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in 2005 is widely credited with ending the worst of the civil strife. But Rachid Tlemcani, a political science professor at Algiers University says: "We're witnessing the slow growth and triumph of Islamism through society."
Conservatives, he charged, "are nibbling at Algerian values, and authorities are following suit."
Associated Press Writer Aomar Ouali in Algiers contributed to this report.
Suspected bomber kills 3 in Algeria
By ALFRED de MONTESQUIOU –
October 4, 2008
ALGER, Algeria (AP) — A suspected suicide bombing killed three people and wounded six in a village east of the Algerian capital, local media reported Monday.
The attack occurred in the Dellys area of Boumerdes, some 50 kilometers (30 miles) east of Algiers, late Sunday during Iftar, the meal that breaks the daily fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the state-run APS news agency said.
The six wounded people were in stable condition at a local hospital, APS said, quoting unnamed security sources as saying the attack was suspected to have been carried out by a suicide bomber.
Security officials did not immediately return calls for comment Monday.
A local resident told The Associated Press that two soldiers, a communal guard and the bomber had been killed. The resident, who saw the bodies at the hospital, spoke on condition of anonymity because many Algerians are wary of talking publicly about their country's violence.
Communal guards form an armed citizens' unit that supplements police in rural areas. Two guards were executed last week by Islamist militants manning a fake check point in the mountainous region inland from Boumerdes, a region known for violence by Islamic extremists.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility. But many attacks in Algeria have been claimed by Al-Qaida in Islamic North Africa, a local militant group that joined Osama bin Laden's terror network in 2006.
Violence has dramatically increased since then. A string of suicide bombings, ambushes and attacks killed more than 100 people in August alone, according to an Associated Press count.
However, bloodshed has been at its lowest point in a decade during this year's Ramadan, which ends within days. Local media have reported that army and police sweeps throughout the country this month have led to the capture of several militant support networks.
Official media said a senior terrorist chief was killed this month, and that three others were slain during a shootout last week.
Algeria has been battling an Islamic insurgency since 1992 when the army canceled national elections to thwart a Muslim fundamentalist party from likely victory. Violence was at its height in the 1990s.
Language Lends Hand To
Religion In Tearing
By Our Man in Tizi Ouzou
Civil wars are usually soul-searching
times were sections of the nation search for identities. For Algerians,
language is inextricably bound up with the conflicting visions of their
country's identity. Half the population are Berber who despise Arabic, while
half the Arabs prefer French to Arabic for daily communication. So is Algeria
Arab or Berber? Is it Islamic, as the armed Muslims would have it? Or is it
For an onlooker, the conflict seems simple to describe: Islamic militants using extreme violence to overthrow a secular authoritarian regime and establish an Iranian style Islamic republic - although nasty and brutal conflict even by the standard of African civil wars.
In a both ill timed and ill advised move the military backed government of President Liamine Zeroual made language - an important national identity tool- another cause of conflict in the already religious-war torn nation. On July 5th, a law came into force making Arabic the only language allowed in public life, fury exploded in the Berber-speaking mountain region of Kabylia. The law bans any official use of French and the Berber language, Tamazight, which means ``the language of free men''.
As the law came to force Kabylia was already on fire following the killing of an immensely popular Berber singer, Lounes Matoub, on 25th June. His wife and two sisters-in-law were wounded in the attack. Although most Algerians, Berbers and Arabs alike, believe that the singer, an outspoken secularist, was killed by GIS militants, Berber anger swiftly turned against the state and its Arabisation policy. Protesters sacked government-owned shops and tore down Arabic signs. As tens of thousands of Kabyles poured into a mountain village for his burial, the divisions in Algerian society were never more obvious. Mourners shouted ``Pouvoir (the generic name given to the military-political power) - assassins!'' They threw stones at a security forces helicopter flying overhead. The accusation seemed to be that the authorities had failed to protect the singer from his Islamist enemies. The crowds, carrying banners declared, `We are not Arabs,' chanted anti-government slogans in Berber and French.
The Berber, for their own interest, were on the government side in the conflict against Islamists. They always opposed the programme of the FIS - the Islamic Salvation Front. FIS was cheated from a possible victory in a French style second round of General elections in 1992 by a military coup- which was demanded by trade unionists, women groups and secular movement fearing an Islamic takeover. The coup was tacitly supported by the French. The Islamists started a wave of terror that turned into a civil war.
The Islamists, known as GIS - the armed
Islamic group as the FIS leaders like leaders of Muslim Brothers and other
Islamic parties in the region who take political asylum in the West- try to
distant themselves from the violence. The leaders argue that their `armed
comrades' - or terrorists in the book of official media- do not represent the
true face of Islam which is all about tolerance, compassion and mercy. However,
Berber, like Copts in
Berber speakers, and many secular Algerians, regard the Arabisation law as a heavy-handed attempt to appease the government's Islamist opponents FIS. Berber, is an oral language still in the process of being codified. A succession of authoritarian central governments, uneasy with pluralism and eager to shore up their nationalist credentials, discouraged its use outside the private domain.
With independence in 1962, the FLN -
National Liberation Front - one party dictatorship that ruled
In 1995, President Zeroual, wanting to
woo the Kabyle political parties and enlist their support against Islamists,
set up a body attached to the presidency that had the task of introducing
Berber teaching in schools. Proclaiming a secular Mediterranean identity,
Berber activists resent the emphasis on
The Berbers believed the Islamists'
doctrine to be alien to
Ex-Mujahedine unwanted by their
countries of origin and had no other skill but fighting a war that broke all
known international war conventions were dispersed in the Middle East dealing
in drugs or becoming hire guns. They went from
The Berbers, who were never too fond of the current military backed government, or its predecessors, carried greater disliking to the Islamists and their brutalities. They were active in confronting the GIS on all civil, and some times armed fronts.
The Berbers, who gave their name to Barbary, inhabited North Africa since 5th century BC. The Berbers strongly resisted the Arab invaders of the seventh century. Although there was some Arabisation of several cities and most of the coastal area but most of Algeria's countryside remained Berber- speaking well into the twelfth century.
Arabisation of the countryside accelerated during the invasion of Arab nomads from Egyptian desert in the late eleventh century and by the late eighteenth century Berber speakers were limited to the least accessible parts of the country--high mountains, distant oases and desert plateau, and mountain areas where the vast majority of Berbers continue to live today. These areas include: Kabylia (Djurdia Mountains) Southeast of Algiers, the Auras Mountains Southeast of Constantine and Ouarseni Massive, Southwest of Algiers.
Later they played a significant role in the Muslim conquest and rule of Spain after conversion to Islam in the 8th century. Berbers have a long history of resisting Arab rule. They were periodically able to maintain independent kingdoms and empires from shortly after the time of the Arab invasion until the sixteenth century. They resisted the rule of the Ottoman Turks and also opposed French colonial rule despite a policy of preferential treatment by the French. They had a yearlong rebellion in 1871 and a strong participation in the Algerian war of independence.
Having been barred from top official posts in the FLN - the national Liberation Front that ruled Algeria from 1962, the Berber members split and formed the Socialist Forces Front (FFS) in 1963 and called for a pluralist culture. Thus they see this law - although was passed by a rubber stamp parliament in 1996- as a betrayal of the joint struggle against French colonial rule.
Their assassinated singer Lounes Matoub was a symbol of resistance to attacks on Berber culture - whether from the murderous Muslim zealots or government bureaucrats. GIS who kidnapped and then released him three years ago said they killed him because he was an enemy of Islam. Matoub music and poetry symbolised the struggle to get Berber recognised as an official language on a par with Arabic. His songs, glorifying Kabyle village life, mocked both the military-backed government and its Islamist opponents. Not only was he scathing about Arabisation, which he held responsible for the rise of Islamic militancy, but he was contemptuous of Arabic language itself, describing it as `uninteresting', and `unsuitable for knowledge and science'.
Secular Berbers point at the example of Egypt when its late authoritarian leader Colonel Gamal Abdel-Nasser's forced Arabisation on Egyptian culture. They see that as the root of the current Islamic terror campaign which destroyed Egypt's tourist industry and claimed hundreds of lives. `` When colonel Nasser Changed the flag, the National anthem and even the name of the country in his false Arabisation,'' said Algerian Berber journalist Liabdallah BelQassim referring to Nasser's 1958 forced unity with Syria, when he replaced the 5000 years old name Egypt with United Arab Republic, `` The Egyptians lost their ancient identity, and after years of humiliation, the Islamists presented them with a false sense of identity, but also violence came with it.'' To accelerate Arabisation in 1970's many Arabic teachers were imported from Egypt and Syria. They carried with them Colonel Nasser's vague romantic pan- Arab nationalism ideology, which only added confusion to the blurred mosaic of Algeria.
For the Kabyles, who are heavily represented in French speaking sectors of culture and economy, French is even more important as so many of them work or have worked in France. In Kabylia, Arabic is often the third language.
For their part, supporters of Arabisation are deeply suspicious of Berber activism, charging that behind the protests lurks an unpatriotic desire to perpetuate French dominance. They regard figures such as the assassinated singer as representing an extreme, even racist, anti-Arab streak that has to be fought. The two political parties with Kabyle constituencies have already said that they will defy the Arabisation law. ``The government is condemning to perilous disorder a society which is already fragmented and ill-educated, and whose administration is undermined by corruption and incompetence,'' said Hocine Ait Ahmed, leader of the FFS. A lesser worry, expressed by many, is how the law can be enforced, given the large number of people who cannot master Arabic. Some fear that the enforcement will be selective, turning the law into a political weapon applied selectively.
In the face of fierce resistance, western condemnation, and more important, fear that the arms given to Berber by the authorities to fight the GIS terror groups, might be turned against the government (a previously unheard-of organisation calling itself the Armed Berber Movement threatened to avenge Matoub's death and kill anyone who tries to implement the Arabisation law), President Zerual who has long resisted any outside probe into the civil war, has agreed on July 9th to let a UN team investigate the killings. The government has ensured the group of international diplomats. Prepared to leave for visit Algeria on July 22, ``free and complete access to all sources of information,'' UN spokesman Juan Carlos Brandt said. Demands for such an international inquiry, from a number of nations, including the US, and international human rights groups, were spurred by suggestions that the army or government-armed self-defence forces might have had at least a passive role in some massacres. Mr Brandt credited the mounting international pressure and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan with bringing about a change of heart in the Algerian leadership. ``I think Algeria has recognised the need to work with and assist the international community on this,'' he said. The team is headed by former Portuguese President Mario Soares. Other team members include: former Indian Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral, former Jordanian Minister Abdel Karim Kabariti, the attorney-general of Kenya, Amos Wako, ex-American UN Ambassador Donald McHenry, and Simone Veil, France's former secretary of state. The group is seeking ``a clear vision and a precise perception'' of the situation and will report back to Annan, Brandt said. Last month western diplomats gave a cautious welcome to the involvement of the United Nations.
There has not been any serious western attempts either to force the Algerian government into finding a compromised peaceful solution with the Islamists, or given a total help to overcome the terror campaign. The French government has been divided in its Algerian policy, with the foreign ministry urging a negotiated settlement and the defence ministry supporting the Algerian military. NATO's northern European members have evinced little inclination to fashion approaches to deal with Algeria's political turbulence. As a prudent measure, France, Italy and Spain have developed plans for emergency evacuation of their nationals including Algerians with dual citizen-ship in the case of France which would number tens of thousands. Reportedly, military preparations for evacuation are well advanced. At present, the U.S. military is not directly involved in the plans, but has been kept apprised.
Algeria violence claims three
June 02, 2005
Two Algerian soldiers were killed and a third injured in eastern Algeria in the last few days in attacks by Muslim fundamentalist gunmen.
Daily al-Watan said the incident occurred in the province of Boumedras, 60 kilometers (37 miles) east of Algiers, when a landmine planted by Islamic gunmen exploded under a military vehicle on its way to a nearby base.
In another incident, gunmen believed to belong to the radical Salafi Group for Daawa and Fighting, killed a farmer in western Algeria Tuesday.
ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — A bomb ripped through a crowd waiting for the Algerian president to arrive in an eastern town on Thursday, killing as many as 16 people and injuring more than 70, officials said.
The bomb exploded about 45 minutes before President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's scheduled arrival in Batna, a town about 280 miles east of the capital, Algiers — and the last stop on the president's tour of eastern Algeria.
Local police said a man between 30 and 35 years old carrying the bomb in a bag walked into the crowd at the Al-Atik mosque. He was behaving strangely and onlookers alerted police, the officials said.
As police moved in toward the man, he threw down the bag and tried to flee. The bomb exploded, and it was not immediately clear whether he died or was wounded in the attack, police said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
Hospital and security officials put the death toll at 16, but the official APS news agency reported 14 dead. The discrepancy could not be immediately reconciled.
Bouteflika, who arrived after the blast, made brief remarks to Algerian television, saying "the only solution was national consensus."
Coordinated terror attacks killed dozens of people on April 11, when bombs ripped through the Algerian prime minister's office and a police station in an Algiers suburb.
A new al-Qaida wing claimed responsibility for the April bombings, saying they were carried out by suicide bombers in trucks packed with explosives.
The attacks were a devastating setback for the North African nation's efforts to close that violent chapter in its history — an Islamic insurgency that has killed an estimated 200,000 people.
Bouteflika has devoted his presidency to ending the violence, launching a national reconciliation plan offering amnesty to insurgents who lay down their arms and stepping up military sweeps of remaining insurgent strongholds.
"This reconciliation, which does not exclude anyone," is part of "an effort for the reconstruction of Algeria, because without political stability there will be no economic and social development," Bouteflika said.
Bouteflika often tours the country to check on the progress of development programs and other initiatives. He visited several western regions about a month ago and began his tour of the east on Tuesday, visiting four regions over three days.
The bombing comes just days before the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Analysts and security officials have been warning al-Qaida could be plotting attacks around this period.
German authorities arrested three Islamic militants suspected of plotting massive bomb attacks Tuesday.
The same day eight men — of Pakistani, Afghan, Somali and Turkish origin — were arrested in Denmark. Authorities said the men were linked to senior al-Qaida leaders, but have not revealed what their targets were, or when they planned to strike.