Algerian Civil War

The Algerian Civil War is an armed conflict between the Algerian government and various Islamist rebel groups which began in 1991. Total casulaties have yet to be accurately counted but it is estimated to have cost somewhere between 44,000 and 200,000 lives, in a population of about 25,010,000 in 1990 and 31,193,917 in 2000.

More than 70 journalists were assassinated, either by security forces or by Islamists. The conflict effectively ended with a government victory, following the surrender of the Islamic Salvation Army and the 2002 defeat of the Armed Islamic Group. However, low-level fighting still continues in some areas.

The conflict began in December 1991, when the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) party gained popularity amongst the Algerian people and the National Liberation Front (FLN) party, fearing the former's victory, cancelled elections after the first round. At this time the country's military effectively took control of the government, and president Chadli Bendjedid was forced from office. After the FIS was banned and thousands of its members arrested, Islamist guerrillas rapidly emerged and began an armed campaign against the government and its supporters.

They formed themselves into several armed groups, principally the Islamic Armed Movement (MIA), based in the mountains, and the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), based in the towns. The guerrillas initially targeted the army and police, but some groups soon started attacking civilians. In 1994, as negotiations between the government and the FIS's imprisoned leadership reached their height, the GIA declared war on the FIS and its supporters, while the MIA and various smaller groups regrouped, becoming the FIS-loyalist Islamic Salvation Army (AIS).

Soon after, the talks collapsed, and new elections, the first since the 1992 coup d'état, were held—won by the army's candidate (himself a former active participant, as were a significant number of other military officials, in president Bendjedid's FLN government), General Liamine Zéroual. Conflict between the GIA and AIS intensified. Over the next few years, the GIA began a series of massacres targeting entire neighborhoods or villages; some evidence also suggests the involvement of government forces. These massacres peaked in 1997 around the parliamentary elections, which were won by a newly created pro-Army party, the National Rally for Democracy (RND).

The AIS, under attack from both sides, opted for a unilateral ceasefire with the government in 1997, while the GIA was torn apart by splits as various subdivisions objected to its new massacre policy. In 1999, following the election of a new president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, a new law gave amnesty to most guerrillas, motivating large numbers to "repent" (as it was termed) and return to normal life. The violence declined substantially, with effective victory for the government. The remnants of the GIA proper were hunted down over the next two years, and had practically disappeared by 2002.

A splinter group of the GIA, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), initially based on the fringes of Kabylie, formed in 1998 to dissociate itself from the massacres. However, despite its former repudiation of attacking non-combatants, they "...eventually returned to killing civilians" and in October 2003, publicly endorsed Al-Qaeda. The GSPC rejected the amnesty and has continued to fight, although many individual members have surrendered. While as of 2006, its comparatively sparse activities - mainly in mountainous parts of the east - are the only remaining fighting in Algeria, a complete end to the violence is not yet in sight.

Read more about Algerian Civil War:  Elections Cancelled: A Guerrilla War Begins, Failed Negotiations and Guerrilla Infighting, Politics Resume, Militias Emerge, Massacres and Reconciliation, GIA Destroyed, GSPC Continues, 2004 Presidential Election and The Amnesty, Death Toll

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