Armed Islamic Group
Overview
 
The Armed Islamic Group is an Islamist organisation that wants to overthrow the Algeria
Algeria
Algeria , officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria , also formally referred to as the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa with Algiers as its capital.In terms of land area, it is the largest country in Africa and the Arab...

n government and replace it with an Islamic state
Islamic State
An Islamic state is a type of government, in which the primary basis for government is Islamic religious law...

. The GIA adopted violent tactics in 1992 after the military government voided the victory of the Islamic Salvation Front
Islamic Salvation Front
The Islamic Salvation Front is an outlawed Islamist political party in Algeria.-Goals:...

, the largest Islamic opposition party, in the first round of legislative elections held in December 1991. During their 1994 hijack of Air France Flight 8969
Air France Flight 8969
Air France Flight 8969 was an Air France flight that was hijacked on 24 December 1994 by the Armed Islamic Group at Algiers, where they killed three passengers, with the intention to crash it on the Eiffel tower in Paris. When the aircraft reached Marseille, the GIGN, an intervention group of the...

 the GIA announced "We are the Soldiers of Mercy".

Between 1992 and 1998 the GIA conducted a violent campaign of civilian massacres, sometimes wiping out entire villages in its area of operation (see List of Algerian massacres of the 1990s; notably the Bentalha massacre
Bentalha massacre
At the village of Bentalha , about 15 km south of Algiers, on the night of September 22-23, 1997, more than 200 villagers were killed by armed guerrillas...

 and Rais massacre
Rais massacre
The Rais massacre, of August 29, 1997, was one of Algeria's bloodiest massacres of the 1990s. It took place at the village of Rais, near Larbaa and south of Algiers. The initial official death toll was 98 people killed and 120 wounded; CNN said that hospital workers and witnesses gave a toll of...

, among others.) Since announcing its campaign against foreigners living in Algeria in 1993, the GIA has killed more than 100 expatriate men and women in the country.
Encyclopedia
The Armed Islamic Group is an Islamist organisation that wants to overthrow the Algeria
Algeria
Algeria , officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria , also formally referred to as the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa with Algiers as its capital.In terms of land area, it is the largest country in Africa and the Arab...

n government and replace it with an Islamic state
Islamic State
An Islamic state is a type of government, in which the primary basis for government is Islamic religious law...

. The GIA adopted violent tactics in 1992 after the military government voided the victory of the Islamic Salvation Front
Islamic Salvation Front
The Islamic Salvation Front is an outlawed Islamist political party in Algeria.-Goals:...

, the largest Islamic opposition party, in the first round of legislative elections held in December 1991. During their 1994 hijack of Air France Flight 8969
Air France Flight 8969
Air France Flight 8969 was an Air France flight that was hijacked on 24 December 1994 by the Armed Islamic Group at Algiers, where they killed three passengers, with the intention to crash it on the Eiffel tower in Paris. When the aircraft reached Marseille, the GIGN, an intervention group of the...

 the GIA announced "We are the Soldiers of Mercy".

Between 1992 and 1998 the GIA conducted a violent campaign of civilian massacres, sometimes wiping out entire villages in its area of operation (see List of Algerian massacres of the 1990s; notably the Bentalha massacre
Bentalha massacre
At the village of Bentalha , about 15 km south of Algiers, on the night of September 22-23, 1997, more than 200 villagers were killed by armed guerrillas...

 and Rais massacre
Rais massacre
The Rais massacre, of August 29, 1997, was one of Algeria's bloodiest massacres of the 1990s. It took place at the village of Rais, near Larbaa and south of Algiers. The initial official death toll was 98 people killed and 120 wounded; CNN said that hospital workers and witnesses gave a toll of...

, among others.) Since announcing its campaign against foreigners living in Algeria in 1993, the GIA has killed more than 100 expatriate men and women in the country. The group uses assassinations and bombings, including car bombs, and it is known to favor kidnapping victims and raping them. The GIA is considered a terrorist organisation by the governments of Algeria, France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 and the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. Outside of Algeria, the GIA established a presence in France, Belgium, Britain, Italy and the United States.

History

Early in 1992, Mansour Meliani, with many "Afghans
Afghan Arabs
Afghan Arabs were Arab and other Muslim Islamist mujahideen who came to Afghanistan during and following the Soviet-Afghan War to help fellow Muslims fight Soviets and pro-Soviet Afghans....

", broke with his former friend Abdelkader Heresay and left the MIA (Islamic Armed Movement), founding the first Armed Islamic Group (GIA) around July 1992. This group dispersed after his arrest that month, but the idea was revived in January 1993 by Abdelhak Layada
Abdelhak Layada
Abdelhak Layada , also known as Abu Adlane, was one of the founders of Algeria's militant Islamist group Armed Islamic Group during the Algerian Civil War, and led it after the death of Mohamed Allel ....

, who declared his group independent of Heresay and not obedient to his orders. It adopted the radical Omar El-Eulmi as a spiritual guide, affirming that "political pluralism is equivalent to sedition"

It was far less selective than the MIA, which insisted on ideological training; as a result, it was regularly infiltrated by the security forces, resulting in a rapid leadership turnover as successive heads were killed. It explicitly affirmed that it "did not represent the armed wing of the FIS", and issued death threats against several FIS and MIA members, including MIA's Heresay and FIS's Kebir and Redjam.

From its inception on, the GIA called for and implemented the killing of anyone collaborating with or supporting the authorities, including government employees such as teachers and civil servants. It named and assassinated specific journalists and intellectuals (such as Tahar Djaout
Tahar Djaout
Tahar Djaout was an Algerian journalist, poet, and fiction writer. He was assassinated by the Armed Islamic Group because of his support of secularism and opposition to what he considered fanaticism. He was attacked on May 26, 1993, as he was leaving his home in Bainem, Algeria. He died on June 2,...

), saying that "The journalists who fight against Islamism through the pen will
perish by the sword.". It soon broadened its attacks to civilians who refused to live by their prohibitions, and in later 1993 began killing foreigners, declaring that "anyone who exceeds that period [a one month deadline] will be responsible for his own sudden death"

Guerrilla army

Under Cherif Gousmi (its leader since March), the GIA became the most high-profile terrorist organization in 1994. In May, FIS suffered an apparent blow as Abderrezak Redjam, Mohammed Said, the exiled Anwar Haddam
Anwar Haddam
Anwar Haddam was a leader of the Islamic Salvation Front , a Islamist party in Algeria, and was elected to parliament on a FIS ticket in 1991 - Algeria's first multiparty elections...

, and the MEI's Said Makhloufi joined the GIA; since the GIA had been issuing death threats against them since November 1993, this came as a surprise to many observers, who interpreted it either as the result of intra-FIS competition or as an attempt to change the GIA's course from within. On August 26, it declared a "Caliphate
Caliphate
The term caliphate, "dominion of a caliph " , refers to the first system of government established in Islam and represented the political unity of the Muslim Ummah...

", or Islamic government for Algeria, with Gousmi as Commander of the Faithful
Caliph
The Caliph is the head of state in a Caliphate, and the title for the ruler of the Islamic Ummah, an Islamic community ruled by the Shari'ah. It is a transcribed version of the Arabic word   which means "successor" or "representative"...

, Mohammed Said
Mohammed Said
-Politicians:* Mohammad Said bin Yusof - Malaysian politician* Mohammed Said Bareh - Eritrean politician* Muhammad Ali, Prince of Said, Egyptian prince* Muhammad Osman Said - former Prime Minister of Libya...

 as head of government, the US-based Haddam as foreign minister, and Mekhloufi as provisional interior minister.

However, the very next day Said Mekhloufi announced his withdrawal from the GIA, claiming that the GIA had deviated from Islam and that this "Caliphate" was an effort by Mohammed Said to take over the GIA, and Haddam soon afterwards denied ever having joined it, asserting that this Caliphate was an invention of the security services. The GIA continued attacking its usual targets, notably assassinating artists, such as Cheb Hasni
Cheb Hasni
Cheb Hasni born Hasni Chakroun was a performer of Algerian Raï music. He was popular across North Africa, having reached the height of his career in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He was the son of a welder and grew up in a working class family where he was one of seven children...

, and in late August added a new one to its list, threatening schools which allowed mixed classes, music, gym for girls, or not wearing hijab
Hijab
The word "hijab" or "'" refers to both the head covering traditionally worn by Muslim women and modest Muslim styles of dress in general....

 with arson
Arson
Arson is the crime of intentionally or maliciously setting fire to structures or wildland areas. It may be distinguished from other causes such as spontaneous combustion and natural wildfires...

.

Cherif Gousmi was eventually succeeded by Djamel Zitouni
Djamel Zitouni
Abou Abderahmane Amine, born Djamel Zitouni , was the leader of the Algerian Armed Islamic Group , a terrorist group responsible for carrying out a series of bombings in France in 1995.He was killed by a rival faction on July 16, 1996.-References:* William J...

 as GIA head. Zitouni extended the GIA's attacks on civilians to French soil, beginning with the hijacking of Air France Flight 8969
Air France Flight 8969
Air France Flight 8969 was an Air France flight that was hijacked on 24 December 1994 by the Armed Islamic Group at Algiers, where they killed three passengers, with the intention to crash it on the Eiffel tower in Paris. When the aircraft reached Marseille, the GIGN, an intervention group of the...

 at the end of December 1994 and continuing with several bombings and attempted bombings throughout 1995. In Algeria itself, he continued likewise, with car bombs, assassinations of musicians, sportsmen, and unveiled women as well as the usual victims. Even at this stage, the seemingly counterproductive nature of many of its attacks led to speculation (encouraged by FIS members abroad) that the group had been infiltrated by Algerian secret services.

The region south of Algiers
Algiers
' is the capital and largest city of Algeria. According to the 1998 census, the population of the city proper was 1,519,570 and that of the urban agglomeration was 2,135,630. In 2009, the population was about 3,500,000...

, in particular, came to be virtually dominated by the GIA; they called it the "liberated zone". Later it would be known as the "triangle of death
Triangle of Death (Algeria)
During the Algerian Civil War, in particular the years 1997-1998, the name Triangle of Death was given to an area south of Algiers, whose "corners" were Algiers, Larbaa and Blida, where some of the worst massacres took place....

". During this period, judging from its London-based magazine Al-Ansar, it worked out ever broader ideological justifications for killing civilians, with the help of fatwa
Fatwa
A fatwā in the Islamic faith is a juristic ruling concerning Islamic law issued by an Islamic scholar. In Sunni Islam any fatwā is non-binding, whereas in Shia Islam it could be considered by an individual as binding, depending on his or her relation to the scholar. The person who issues a fatwā...

s from such figures as Abu Qatada
Abu Qatada
Abû-Qatâda al-Filisṭînî , sometimes called Abû-Omar is an Islamist militant. Under the name Omar Mahmoud Othman , he is under worldwide embargo by the United Nations Security Council Committee 1267 for his affiliation with al-Qaeda...

. Abu Qatada's writings and speeches have been critically assessed by a contemporary Muslim scholar, Shaykh 'Abdul-Malik ar-Ramadani al-Jaza'iri, in the book Takhlis al-'Ibad min Wahshiyyat Ab'il-Qataad aladhi yu'du ila Qatli'n-Nisa wa Awlad (Jeddah: Maktabah Asalah al-Athariyyah, 1422AH

Reports of battles between the AIS and GIA increased (resulting in an estimated 60 deaths in March 1995 alone), and the GIA reiterated its death threats against FIS and AIS leaders, claiming to be the "sole prosecutor of jihad" and angered by their negotiation attempts. On July 11, they assassinated a co-founder of FIS, Abdelbaki Sahraoui
Abdelbaki Sahraoui
Abdelbaki Sahraoui was a co-founder of the Islamic Salvation Front in Algeria.He was born in 1910 in Constantine, Algeria. In 1926, he joined the circle of Sheikh Mubarak el-Mili. Five years later, he was conscripted by the French army, where he spent two years. He then moved to Algiers, where...

, in Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 (although some question the authenticity of their statement claiming credit for this.)

During the 1995 election, the GIA threatened to kill anyone who voted (using the slogan "one vote, one bullet".) Soon afterwards, the GIA was shaken by internal dissension: shortly after the election, its leadership killed the FIS leaders who had joined the GIA - Mohammed Saïd
Mohammed Said
-Politicians:* Mohammad Said bin Yusof - Malaysian politician* Mohammed Said Bareh - Eritrean politician* Muhammad Ali, Prince of Said, Egyptian prince* Muhammad Osman Said - former Prime Minister of Libya...

, Abderrezak Redjam, and their supporters, accusing them of attempting a takeover. Other Islamists suggested that they had objected to the GIA's indiscriminate violence. This purge accelerated the disintegration of the GIA, leading to suspicion of Zitouni's leadership: Mustapha Kartali
Mustapha Kartali
Mustapha Kartali was the main Islamist guerrilla leader in the Larbaa region during the Algerian Civil War.Born in 1946, he was elected FIS mayor of Larbaa, a town south of Algiers, in 1991. After the military banned FIS, he joined the Armed Islamic Group's guerrillas in fighting the government,...

, Ali Benhadjar, and Hassan Hattab
Hassan Hattab
Hassan Hattab is the founder and first leader of the Algerian Islamist rebel group Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat ....

's factions all refused to recognize Zitouni's leadership starting around late 1995, although they would not formally break away until somewhat later. The GIA killed the AIS leader for central Algeria, Azzedine Baa, in December, and in January pledged to fight the AIS as an enemy; particularly in the west, full-scale battles between them became common.

In July 1996, GIA leader Djamel Zitouni
Djamel Zitouni
Abou Abderahmane Amine, born Djamel Zitouni , was the leader of the Algerian Armed Islamic Group , a terrorist group responsible for carrying out a series of bombings in France in 1995.He was killed by a rival faction on July 16, 1996.-References:* William J...

 was killed by one of the breakaway factions - Ali Benhadjar's Medea
Medea, Algeria
Médéa , population 123,535 is the capital city of Médéa Province, Algeria. It is located roughly 90 km south of Algiers....

 brigade, later to become the AIS-aligned Islamic League for Da'wa and Jihad - and was succeeded by Antar Zouabri
Antar Zouabri
Antar Zouabri alias “Abou Talha Antar” or “Abou Talha″ was the leader of the Armed Islamic Group , a neo-Khawarij Islamist group in Algeria, between 1996 and 2002...

. Djamel Zitouni had earned notoriety for such acts as the killing of the seven Monks of Tibhirine
Martyrs of Atlas
On the night of 26–27 March 1996, seven monks from the monastery of Tibhirine in Algeria, belonging to the Roman Catholic Trappist Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance , were kidnapped in the Algerian Civil War. They were held for two months, and were found dead on 21 May 1996...

 in March, but his successor would prove to be far bloodier. Under the leadership of Antar Zouabri, its longest serving "emir" (1996–2002), the GIA became a "takfiri
Takfiri
A Takfiri is a Muslim who practices Takfir, which is to accuse other Muslims of apostasy. The term Takfir derives from the word kafir and is described as when "...one who is, or claims to be, a Muslim is declared impure." Those to whom Takfir is applied are considered excommunicated in the eyes...

" group, considering Algerian society to be in violation of Islamic precepts, therefore justifying the killing of members of that society as a form of purification of heretical elements.

Like some of his predecessors, Zouabri was himself killed in a gun battle with security forces, in February 2002. The group's leadership next passed on to Rachid Abou Tourab, who was allegedly killed by close aides in July 2004. Next, Boulenouar Oukil was designated leader of the group. On April 7, the GIA was reported to have killed 14 civilians at a fake road block. On April 29, Oukil was arrested. Nourredine Boudiafi iwas the last known "emir" of the GIA. He was arrested sometime in November of 2004 and the Algerian government announced his arrest in early January 2005.

In Algeria, however, the group's repeated massacres of civilians had drained popular support (although rumors persist that security forces were involved in some of the massacres, or even controlled the group). Meanwhile, a 1999 amnesty law that was officially rejected by the GIA was accepted by many rank-and-file Islamist fighters; an estimated 85 percent surrendered their arms and returned to civilian life.

The Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) splinter faction appears to have eclipsed the GIA since approximately 1998 and is currently assessed by the CIA to be the most effective armed group remaining inside Algeria. Both the GIA and GSPC leadership continue to proclaim their rejection of President Bouteflika's amnesty, but in contrast to the GIA, the GSPC has stated that it avoids attacks on civilians.

GIA in France

The Algerian state pursued a number of strategies against the GIA. One was to encourage France to take an active part in the fight against the networks of the GIA in France, and thus to cut off its principal means of support abroad.

In an unsuccessful attempt to keep France out of the struggle, the GIA hijacked Air France
Air France
Air France , stylised as AIRFRANCE, is the French flag carrier headquartered in Tremblay-en-France, , and is one of the world's largest airlines. It is a subsidiary of the Air France-KLM Group and a founding member of the SkyTeam global airline alliance...

 Flight 8969
Air France Flight 8969
Air France Flight 8969 was an Air France flight that was hijacked on 24 December 1994 by the Armed Islamic Group at Algiers, where they killed three passengers, with the intention to crash it on the Eiffel tower in Paris. When the aircraft reached Marseille, the GIGN, an intervention group of the...

, which was due to fly from Algiers
Algiers
' is the capital and largest city of Algeria. According to the 1998 census, the population of the city proper was 1,519,570 and that of the urban agglomeration was 2,135,630. In 2009, the population was about 3,500,000...

 to Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 in December 1994. A GIA mole
Mole (espionage)
A mole is a spy who works for an enemy nation, but whose loyalty ostensibly lies with his own nation's government. In some usage, a mole differs from a defector in that a mole is a spy before gaining access to classified information, while a defector becomes a spy only after gaining access...

 named Omar Nasiri (a pseudonym for a Moroccan spy and author of Inside the Jihad) and a police raid of a safe house discovered their plan was to crash it on Paris, a plan prevented when the GIGN stormed the plane at Marseille.

The GIA conducted a series of bombings in France from 1995 to 1996. Analysis of a bomb with a failed trigger mechanism made it possible to identify a conspirator, Khaled Kelkal
Khaled Kelkal
Khaled Kelkal was an Algerian terrorist affiliated with the GIA. He was involved in the 1995 terror bombings in France.-Biography :...

, who was shot and killed by French gendarmes on September 29, 1995. In late 1999, several GIA members were convicted by a French court for the 1995 bombing campaign.

In 1998, prior to the World Cup, France in collaboration with other European countries launched a vast preventive operation against the GIA. About 100 alleged members of the group were arrested throughout Europe. In Belgium, security forces seized weapons, detonators and forged identity papers. On June 11, 1999, the GIA announced a jihad
Jihad
Jihad , an Islamic term, is a religious duty of Muslims. In Arabic, the word jihād translates as a noun meaning "struggle". Jihad appears 41 times in the Quran and frequently in the idiomatic expression "striving in the way of God ". A person engaged in jihad is called a mujahid; the plural is...

 on French territory in a threatening letter addressed to the media.

Claims of GIA as Sponsored by Algerian Government to the Knowledge of Foreign Intelligence

9/11 conspiracy theorist Nafeez Ahmed
Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed
Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed is a London-born author and political scientist specialising in interdisciplinary security studies. He teaches International Relations at the School of Social Sciences and Cultural Studies, University of Sussex, Brighton, where he recently completed Doctoral research on...

 claims GIA atrocities were in fact perpetrated by the state. He claims ‘Yussuf-Joseph’, a career secret agent in Algeria’s sécurité militaire for 14 years, defected to Britain in 1997 and told the Guardian that civilian massacres in Algeria, blamed on the GIA, were ‘the work of secret police and army death squads… not Islamic extremists’. GIA terrorism was ‘orchestrated’ by ‘Mohammed Mediane, head of the Algerian secret service’, and ‘General Smain Lamari’, head of ‘the counter intelligence agency’. According to Ahmed 'Joseph' says: ‘The GIA is a pure product of Smain’s secret service. I used to read all the secret telexes. I know that the GIA has been infiltrated and manipulated by the Government. The GIA has been completely turned by the Government… In 1992 Smain created a special group, L’Escadron de la Mort (the Squadron of Death)… The death squads organize the massacres… The FIS aren’t doing the massacres.’
'Joseph' is also supposed to have confirmed that Algerian intelligence agents organized ‘at least’ two of the bombs in Paris in summer 1995. ‘The operation was run by Colonel Souames Mahmoud, alias Habib, head of the secret service at the Algerian embassy in Paris.’ According to Ahmed's theories, 'Joseph's testimony has been corroborated by numerous defectors from the Algerian secret services.
Ahmed claims that Western intelligence agencies are implicated. Secret British Foreign Office documents revealed in a terrorist trial in 2000 showed that ‘British intelligence believed the Algerian Government was involved in atrocities, contradicting the view the Government was claiming in public’. The documents referred to the ‘manipulation of the GIA being used as a cover to carry out their own operations’, and that ‘there was no evidence to link 1995 Paris bombings to Algerian militants’.

Further reading

  • Colin Robinson, In the Spotlight: the Armed Islamic Group, Center for Defense Information
    Center for Defense Information
    The Center for Defense Information , founded in 1972 by retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Gene La Rocque, states that it is dedicated to strengthening national and international security through international cooperation, reduced reliance on unilateral military power to resolve conflict, reduced...

    , February 5, 2003

External links

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